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Appeal case on scope of PSBC resumes

A case in which the Government, in collaboration with Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) has appealed the judgement of Justice Tshepo Motswagole of the Gaborone High Court which nullified the unilateral decision by Government to award salary increment outside the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) is slated for next week at the Court of Appeal in Gaborone.

The appeal follows government (and BOPEU) application of stay of execution of the said (Motswagole) judgement in May in which Judge Justice Monametsi Gaongalelwe who sat on bench alone “upheld” – pending the current appeal. Prior to the appeal, Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) made an application seeking the court to set aside government’s decision which it contended that it was a breach of PSBC as it was not a decision (of the PSBC) process. Most importantly, they also wanted the court to clarify the scope of the PSBC, which is mandated to negotiate salaries and conditions of service for all public servants.

When making the judgement on the matter (currently being appealed), Justice Motswagole stated categorically that: “government breached its duty to bargain in good faith when it granted unilateral 3% increment of salaries on March 30, 2016. The scope of the PSBC- being a joint industrial council – extends to all public servants and is not only restricted to trade union members,” he said. At the time, BOPEU was not sitting in the PSBC and it is understood that hence the team up with government against their rival BOFEPUSU.

BOFEPUSU, also feeling drained and outdone by the flip flopping on the matter would later withdraw their membership from the PSBC, the decision which is effective to date. However the federation still contends the matter is still relevant to them and they are watching closely.   

“To us this case is still relevant and important as the Bargaining Council is there. It is non – functional currently but it does not mean that it does not exist. In future, we may want to apply for admission,” BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari told Weekend Post in an email conversation.

According to Rari what they are fighting for is a principle that governs industrial councils all over the world, whether the council ultimately gets deregistered and another one concocted “as we hear is the intention of government,” they are of the strong view scope of the PSBC would remain the same as an industrial council. “So to us is an issue of fighting for principle that would ultimately protect the PSBC and the principle of bargaining in this country irrespective of the form that PSBC is composed,” BOFEPUSU SG insisted.

Background of the case until the current appeal

When narrating the marathon case, Rari stated that it is the case that resulted in some public servants (those whose unions were outside the PSBC) getting and increment of a 3% for 12 months (July 2015 to July 2016) and later also getting another increment of a 4% for about three (3) months, while the other section of the public service, those whose unions were admitted into the PSBC, were not getting such salary adjustments. He explained that this was because in an attempt to restore the powers of the PSBC after government has by-passed the council by unilaterally adjusting salaries for public servants in April 2015, BOFEPUSU then approached the Industrial Court to get a interim interdict of the unilateral increment and the by – passing of the PSBC.

He then said the Industrial Court through Judge Rihukhia sort of held that the scope of the PSBC is restricted to those public servants whose unions are admitted into the PSBC. “In taking this view, the decision of the Industrial Court meant that government could adjust conditions of service for those public servants whose unions are not in the PSBC even when the PSBC is still seized with a negotiation process, to the exclusion of those whose unions are admitted into the PSBC, hence the selective and discriminatory 3% and 4% salary adjustment of 2015 and 2016 respectively as mentioned,” Rari further highlighted.  

In realizing that the Rihukhia judgment was perpetuating the undermining of the PSBC by limiting its scope and influence, he said BOFEPUSU approached the High Court for a final determination of the matter. “The case was heard at the High Court by Justice Motswagole who agreed with BOFEPUSU that the PSBC is an industrial council hence its scope and decision affect and binds all public servants inclusive of those whose unions that would have at the material time not admitted in the PSBC safe only for those expressly excluded by the PSA.”

Rari said Judge Motswagole went further in his judgment to as a consequence declare that the 3% and the 4% that was being granted exclusively to those public servants whose unions were not in the PSBC was unlawful as adjustment of conditions of service for public servants was purely a preserve of the PSBC. Judge Motswagole as a result interdicted the 4% and 3%, he added.

“However, government and BOPEU fighting on the same corner decided to approach the Court of Appeal on urgency to pray for the stay of Execution of the Motswagole judgment pending the hearing of an appeal against it,” he highlighted. He added that Justice Gaongalelwe, sitting as a single Judge of the Court of Appeal agreed with government and BOPEU and stayed the execution of Motswagole judgment leaving the situation as it was before the Motswagole judgment. According to Rari, the Judgment by Justice Gaongalelwe in upholding the pray by BOPEU and government of a stay of execution of the Motswagole judgment, made a number of decisions that caused serious debates in the judicial circles.

Some of them he added that it included the issues of the stoppage of payment of the 3% and the 4% to non – unionized and those whose unions are not in the PSBC was still before judge Motswagole on a return date, but Judge Motswagole usurped the powers of another court in determining on it. 
He also said while Judge Motswagole entertained the stay, he however decided that the case will come 5 months later in spite of the fact that this case from lower courts has always been urgent as it affected increment of thousands of public servants.

Rari further pointed out that this is the decision that resulted in BOFEPUSU withdrawing from the PSBC as the decision effectively meant that the members of the BOFEPUSU affiliated unions, which was then admitted into the PSBC, would not enjoy any increment until after October 2017 when the CoA would listen to the scope case. “That was in May 2017, and BOFEPUSU would have to wait for more than 5 months before bargaining while their members would be getting any increment and they had already gone for more than a year with an increment hence the decision by BOFEPUSU to withdraw from the PSBC,” he justified. Meanwhile, in the appeal next week BOFEPUSU has engaged Advocate Alec Freund while government will be represented by Advocate Tim Bruinders.

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Gov’t has no budget for Magosi’s SADC chase

12th April 2021
Elias Magosi

Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.

The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.

However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.

Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat.  “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.

This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.

“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.

“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.

In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?

“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.

While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.

Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.

His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.

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Mzwinila’s P4.3 Billion gamble to keep water flowing

12th April 2021

The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.

His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.

Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.

Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.

Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).

“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”

The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).

When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.

With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?

Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.

The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.

The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.

Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.

Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.

“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.

Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.

Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.

The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.

Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.

One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

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Will Botswana’s Climate Change policy climax?

12th April 2021
Botswana Climate

The Botswana Climate Change policy draft of 2021 was tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng for consideration and adoption.

The policy attempts to indicate the country’s environmentally conscious development agenda as Substantial resources are being dedicated to research and policy efforts to mitigate climate change and support adaptation to the current and future impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Kereng indicated that Botswana is not immune to the impacts of climate change and it continues to delay the country’s national development efforts and that the key economic development sectors dependent on the climate system have recorded declines over the years due to the variability of the rainfall and other climatic conditions. Experts elsewhere have pointed out that lack of consideration of population dynamics hampers the development of stronger, more effective solutions to the challenges climate change poses – hopefully this policy if effectively implemented could partly answer this question.

Kereng underscored that sectors such as agriculture, water, bio diversity, health and tourism have suffered the most and the consequences of these have contributed significantly to the decline of livelihoods in Botswana especially in rural areas.

To respond to the changing climate, Botswana has embarked on sectoral reform such as climate smart agriculture, poverty alleviation initiatives, building resilience on the economic productive sectors, diversification of tourism for the improvement of livelihoods and income generation, local economic development and sustainable environment.

The efforts require a coordinated mechanism that will provide an enabling environment for an integrated approach to the formulation and implantation of development plans and socio economic related policies in Botswana that are responsive to the changing climatic conditions.

Minister Kereng explained the draft policy is characterized by an inclusive and integrated approach to social, economic development and governance modalities that would enable the country to achieve a sustainable development pathway. It provides opportunities for improved livelihoods through creation of green jobs, development and transfer of relevant technologies as well as creation and ease of access to both local and international markets. It also commits the government, private sector and non-state actors to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures that would facilitate sustainability and building of resilience of all sectors.

While Members of Parliament were trying to comprehend the policy, this publication got in touch with Green Botswana to solicit their views on the policy draft. Ms. Sela Motshwane, the Founder of the Trust highlighted that “the Climate Change policy was meant to be read in August 2019. It is long overdue, and we all need to see it and understand it in full.

I understand the current budget does not allow for a full implementation- but I could be wrong. More funds could have been allocated since. I think generally, Batswana need to understand fully what this means to our daily lives. I believe the true understanding is by policy drafters and the Ministry of Environment only.”

In the same vein, Green Botswana Trust took to the streets to provide a community solution to climate change on World Health Day (Wednesday). Green Botswana held a “Free Trees for Babies” at Extension 2 Clinic where fruit trees were gifted to parents, expectant mothers, 25 health workers, police officers and the prison officers who had accompanied prisoners to the clinic.

Motshwane said: “The decision to do the “Free Trees for Babies” by gifting fruit trees was to raise awareness to our imminent food security issue as stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr. Thabang Botshoma and encourage the general public to plant a tree so that we can reach our SGD Goal 13 : Climate Action. The trees gifted are to be named after the baby recipient”.

Green Botswana is calling for the urgent action from government and members of the public to create a culture of community accountability and collegiality in moving Botswana towards climate action and sustainability. To achieve the 2030 Paris Agreement Pledge, it will take all citizens and not just the government to reach goals.

Parliament resolved to adopt the Botswana Climate Change Policy, 2021.

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