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Lobatse Town Council refuses to stop ex-union members’ subscriptions

Lobatse Town Council (LTC) is refusing to stop deductions of subscriptions of its employees, who were before termination, members of Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities & Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU); Gaborone High Court Judge Justice Terrence Rannowane heard this week.

In the matter before the High Court, ex BLLAWHU members want the court to declare that the union and Lobatse Town Council (LTC), by continuing to withhold BLLAWHU member subscription fees after having being instructed by the individual employees to stop deductions, are violating the Employment Act.

Section 79 of the Employment Act states: “(1) Except where otherwise expressly permitted by this Act or any other written law, no employer shall make any deduction or make any agreement with any employee (whether or not the agreement is contained in the contract of employment) for any deduction from the wages to be paid by the employer or from any other payments which may be due to the employee or for any payment to the employer by the employee:

Provided that this subsection shall not apply to deductions deposited with the sanction of the Commissioner under section 45. (2) any employer who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to the penalties prescribed by section 151(d).”

The members, who are around 65 in number, insist that BLLAHWU and LTC should be ordered forthwith from deducting their subscription fees. In addition, they request that the court direct that the duo to reimburse the claimants all monies unlawfully withheld by them. According to court documents seen by WeekendPost the members earlier this year terminated their membership with the union. However the request is said to have fallen on deaf ears.

Although members insist that they informed the Council of the termination, LTC on the other hand told court that there is no proof to substantiate the allegation. An esteemed attorney Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi Law Firm, representing Keabetswe Sera and 65 others stated in his oral arguments in court this week that: “Lobatse Town Council (LTC) refused an instruction from employees to stop the deduction.”

He continued: “instructions came from employees when the deductions started, and now when they wanted the deductions to stop they followed the same process by writing a letter to employer (LTC) to terminate their deduction. But the employer said they are not going to accede to the request.”

The prominent Attorney explained that employees must authorize employers for the deductions and the law doesn’t give unions any power to be consulted with or be heard, adding that it’s the sole prerogative of employers. Therefore, the lawyer said, in terms of BLLAHWU he is not seeking any substantive relief against them but only from the employer, adding that unions were only cited as an interested party to the matter.

“The union (BLLAHWU) is an interested party because the money deducted from the members does go to them. By continuing to withholding BLLAHWU members’ subscriptions, LTC is violating the Employment Act. Who is deducting money in favour of the unions? It’s only employers. Unions have no control of deducting and there is nothing that the unions can do.”

In January this year, the well regarded lawyer emphasized that there was a sign and power of attorney calling the employer (LTC) to stop deductions. “Therefore they cannot be any sign of seriousness like approaching the courts,” he was quoted as saying. Ndadi said the Local Government Act is clear and gives the Council authority and power to sue and be sued where it warrants so.

In prior heads of arguments, Ndadi, together with Ramou Jallow stated that “the employer was further served with a Statutory Notice by way of registered mail to stop deductions as they are unauthorized and offensive to the Employment Act. Despite the instructions and the demand via the Statutory Notice, the deductions have continued to this day.”    

They pointed out that authorization was withdrawn by the employees in relation to the employer, which renders any further deductions from their salaries unlawful and the employees are consequently entitled to a full refund of their respective subscriptions and for the deductions to stop forthwith.

For his part, a close friend of Ndadi, Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners who stood in for BLLAHWU, said he was surprised that Ndadi is raising the matter to the effect that they are only an interested party in the oral arguments and did not mention such position in advance in their heads of arguments so that they prepare their contrasting point.

“So today, the applicants’ lawyer (Ndadi) said we have only been cited as an interested party but unfortunately they did not state it in any of their documents like affidavits, notice of motion, heads of argument etc,” the renowned lawyer in Dingake pointed out. Dingake’s point of view was that at that point, since they know the relief is not being sought by the applicants (that Ndadi is representing), it then meant they can change their position, which might also have consequences.

He highlighted that as a consequence it means that the case should revolve around whether or not their opposition to the matter is reasonable or unreasonable and against whom. In defending BLLAHWU, the legal guru went on further to however indicate that withholding of the subscription fees by the union is only lawful adding that the matter is between employer and the union as per the collective labour agreement which is binding – as the expectations is that each deals with the other in good faith.

“Consent was given. Union members, right at the bottom of the consent pledges herself that authorization of deductions continues. Therefore there is no contravention of any law,” Dingake asserted in court. In his assessment he told court that the application is without merit and should be dismissed with costs since no relief has been sought to them (BLLAWHU) they are also entitled to costs in the matter.

Meanwhile in his written heads of argument he had stated: “the applicants did not terminate in accordance with the constitution that governs the union and as such a consequent of that they have effectively failed to terminate their membership.” As such he emphasised “the applicants have failed to terminate membership in accordance with the constitution that governs the union that they are members of and the collective labour agreement.”  

When responding to the whole matter in court, Thapelo Mphala, who filed the papers with Charity Mahube on behalf of Lobatse Town Council (LTC), said he immediately abandons his earlier contention in his heads of arguments in relation to the Employment Act and raises fresh arguments of locus standi. The attorney brought to the attention of court that “Lobatse Town Council is not the statutory employer of the applicant members on this matter, and therefore deductions are not done by the Council but by the Treasure General of the union which is not an office with LTC in terms of the Local Government Act.”

However the Judge interjected to ask why they participated in the matter while they knew they had no locus standi. Mphala said they appeared because they had already been brought to court. “Applicants must instead crude against the Attorney General not LTC. LTC is a separate entity with its own functions encapsulated in the Local Government Act.”  He said the Council cannot reimburse the applicants because the union (BLLAHWU), rightfully before court, is the one which holds the members’ money and not the council.  

Although he said they do not have locus standi he also mentioned that the members in question have not signed to terminate their subscriptions at the Council. He argued in the papers that none of the 77 members cited in the papers appended their signatures on their termination letters except for 21 whom have already been sorted out. “We humbly submit that clearly this is a new matter and the Applicants are not being candid with this Honourable Court, they have crafted the list attached to the letter for their own convenience and to mislead the Honourable Court.”

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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