The Minister responsible for Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Tshenolo Mabeo has hauled Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPPPUSU) over hot coals for reporting the government of Botswana to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) based in Geneva, Switzerland.
BOFEPUSU had reported the government at the ILO for what they regard as “trampling and disregarding the lawfully instituted Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC)” and also query the controversial amendment of the Trade Dispute Act. WeekendPost has established that the international body, ILO representative, under the Freedom of Association branch, Keren Curtis visited Botswana this week in a move to meet the tripartite structure to follow up on the BOFEPPPUSU letter reporting key violations of workers’ rights in the country.
As a result, Curtis met Minister Mabeo, as well as Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Thato Kwerepe, and former Attorney General Athaliah Molokomme. She also met BOFEPPPUSU and Business Botswana – all of which are tripartite stakeholders in Botswana. In accordance with International Labour Standards on Tripartite consultation, the ILO is based on the principle of tripartism – dialogue and cooperation between governments, employers, and workers – in the formulation of standards and policies dealing with labour matters.
It is understood that the ILO representative was primarily consulting on the issues raised by BOFEPUSU relating to violations of workers’ rights in contravention of ILO standards and policies while the country has ratified various conventions. “Yes it is true that ILO representative Curtis was in Botswana to meet key stakeholders under tripartite arrangement,” Minister Mabeo told Weekend Post adding that she met on official capacity, specifically “Mabeo, Kwerepe, Molokomme, BOFEPUSU and Business Botswana to discuss labour issues of concern.”
Mabeo stressed that ILO cannot solve Botswana’s labour relations issues but instead the parties involved can do so on their own (without the help of ILO). Repeatedly, the Minister insisted that “dialogue” is very important between the unions and government. He said the sour relationship and failure by parties to meet at the negotiating table of the Bargaining Council could only be resolved by dialogue. He emphasised: “ILO cannot solve our problems but only us domestically can do that. We should exhaust all the means before we ask for mediation outside the country.”
The minister said the unions should know that it’s important to note that building the economy lies with the citizenry before anyone else. On his own account, Mabeo explained that “I told ILO envoy Curtis during the meeting this week that we do not need anyone from outside to dictate to us how to solve our issues and that’s my departure point.” He also said he has met the Federations several times and they both agree that dialogue is crucial and can solve the acrimony that currently exists between government and unions.
“The union federations informed me that they did not have the platform to negotiate so I brought them closer to us as government so that we can dialogue. And there are indications that we are in the right way. As a ministry we will continue encouraging dialogue.” He said: “I believe PSBC should make dialogue, talk about the issues they face, resolve them on their own. PSBC is a lawful constituted body. I believe PSBC should do their job.”
According to the Minister the main problem between parties at the Bargaining Council is that there is lack of tolerance by all parties in the negotiations. We should, he observed, be able to speak around the table but if there is not trust, as I see, there cannot be proper dialogue. In terms of the Trade Dispute Act, Mabeo highlighted that initially they thought they were solving a problem but later found out, after some court cases, that there was need to align the Act with the constitution.
He added that law was not cast in stone and that is why they continued to amend them while also noting that “we can’t all get what we want all the time”. “But moving forward, doors are open for any amendments that we may deem necessary, all is not lost,” Mabeo pointed out. In relation to concerns they raised at the ILO, Trade Union Federation cried foul over government’s attitude of being prone to bypassing the legally constituted body which is mandated with the negotiation of salaries and conditions of service of all the public servants in Botswana.
PSBC is currently at the centre of dispute before the Courts of law over issues of scope. Of concern also to BOFEPUSU which has been put forward to the attention of ILO is the controversial amendment of the Trade Dispute Act (TDA) which consequently categorized non essential services such as teachers, Government Broadcasting services and Immigration and Customs Services as essential, once again violating ILO standards.
The government had also previously made Veterinary, Diamond Sorting, Cutting and selling services essential services but through courts intervention they lost the matter and the unlawful move was reversed. It is understood that in amending the TDA, to include more cadres as essential, government sought to reduce the bargaining power of the said professionals particularly teachers as well as circumvent their ability and right to strike. This was as a result of the notorious 2011 nationwide Industrial strike which almost plunged the education system into paralysis of unequivocal standards.
The unique tripartite structure of the ILO gives an equal voice to workers, employers and governments to ensure that the views of the social partners are closely reflected in labour standards and in shaping policies and programmes. BOFEPUSU had stated in the letter to the labour organisation dated 25th July 2016 titled “letter of complaint against the government of Botswana” they stated that they would prefer that the international organisation assist in referring the complaint as enunciated in the introductory letter and in the report on the amended Trade Dispute Act that they sent.
“We also would like to request the ILO office to prepare an informal opinion to the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations. And similarly, we request the ILO office to prepare an informal opinion on the matter to guide the federation in lobbying both domestically and abroad including at the 2017 ILO conference,” BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari had written.
The main objectives of the ILO are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues. It remains to be seen whether ILO will take necessary disciplinary steps towards the Botswana government in the fullness of time – in relations to violations which has been reported to the world body.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.
“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).