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Boko vows to reconcile BOFEPUSU, BOPEU

A day after the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) terminated their membership to the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) and publicly endorsed the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) at a political rally, the UDC president and Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Duma Gideon Boko delivered a mouthwatering and moving speech at BOPEU May Day commemoration in Selibe Phikwe on Monday.


BOFEPUSU and BOPEU are at loggerheads over the collective bargaining process in the country. According to Boko, BOPEU and BOFEPUSU should find each other just like the opposition parties did. BOFEPUSU’s withdrawal from PSBC come shortly after they lost an appeal on the stay of execution of the Motswagole judgement against Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU). Advocate Boko represented the Johannes Tshukudu led Federation while BCP presidential spokesperson, Martin Dingake had represented BOPEU.  


Boko who was invited as the guest speaker at this BOPEU May Day event just days after losing the 3/4 % salary increment stay of execution case also lectured his audience on the principles of collective bargaining and role of the government and trade unions at the negotiation table. According to Boko workers rights in Botswana will forever be trembled upon by the BDP regime if the trade unions don’t unite to forge solidarity grounds and demand well treatment of their members.


TRADE UNIONS MUST UNITE


 “From here it is now very important for the Trade Unions under BOFEPUSU and BOPEU to come to one table and dialogue in the best interest of workers,” said Boko.  He observed that divided labour movements can never solicit what they want from government.  Boko revealed that the foundations of a united opposition were the brain child of trade union leaders.  “I will not mention any names but it is common knowledge that the united opposition is where it is today because of a pivotal role union leaders played.”


The UDC President observed that it was the idea of all labour movements for opposition parties to come together and cooperate towards unseating the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) led government which has neglected the welfare of workers. “You have played a very vital role in the formation of one opposition formidable force, it is now time for you to do the same with your movements and put your house in order,” said Boko. Boko who amazingly received a shocking welcome with massive applauds from hundreds of BOPEU members shortly after the court case moved to defend BOFEPUSU-UDC relationship.


UNIONS CHOOSE POLITICAL FRIENDS


In his words when giving the keynote address Boko explained that any labour movement has the right to associate with any political organization that it feels could take care of workers better if given a chance to lead. “As trade unions you go shopping, that is to say you move from one political organization and analyze their labour policies and trade unionism ideologies, you do so because Botswana is a political state, after doing so you then have the right to associate, offer solidarity or align nor support any political organization that you perceive can take care of workers well being better, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that,” lectured Boko.


Boko told workers that uniting was no longer a matter of choice for them as trade unions: “You must first know your right, then understand yourselves as a trade union then work towards forging a common solidarity ground to demand your rights.” He underscored that government needed to respect the workers and their rights as it was the only way the workforce could be productive. “Every decision at the bargaining council must be taken in good faith.”


The 2019 presidential hopeful indicated that government must lay down facts about the economic stance of the country and disclose accurate figures for workers to appreciate the reality with our national treasury. “It is however imperative that when government say there was no money for salary increment, workers must not now wake up to the news that the same government is spending ridiculously on questionable and useless expenditures,” he said. Speaking to Weekendpost afterwards, Boko revealed that he will be taking deliberate actions to reconcile BOPEU and BOFEPUSU.


 “It is a fact we cannot ignore that the two labour movements need each other to advance the interests of the workers,” he said. According to Boko, this year’s theme of Unity and solidarity should register as a challenge and urge the leadership and members of the two organizations to appreciate that it is only when they are one that they can reclaim trade unionism space in the social dialogue space.

 

“Because of our (UDC) good relationship with BOFEPUSU and my cordial relations with BOPEU as demonstrated by their invite of my person here, I will be taking deliberate actions to try and forge unity between the two labour movements,” revealed Boko. Boko who was invited in his capacity as the Leader of Opposition is of the view that for government to listen and respect workers’ rights, it is important for workers through their trade unions to speak and bargain in one voice.


UNIONS ROLE IN REGIME CHANGE AGENDA


Speaking to the issue of the 2019 regime change agenda, the UDC leader told Weekendpost that BOFEPUSU will play an integral role in their 2019 takeover efforts. “Our friendship with BOFEPUSU was established years back when BCP was not yet part of us. Now that means BOFEPUSU and BCP leaderships must come together and appreciate a common understanding of our course,” he said. Boko noted that he will arrange a meeting between the leaders of the two organizations to allow them to dialogue and iron out any issues that might be evident.


“In no time I will facilitate a meeting between the leadership of our new partners into the UDC, Botswana Congress Party and the leadership of BOFEPUSU so as they engage and understand each other better going forward into 2019 takeover,” said the UDC President.  
He further stressed that after the BCP and BOFEPUSU have ironed out their issues and he has succeeded in bringing BOPEU and BOFEPUSU together the two trade unions under one understanding can choose to support the UDC or not to support.


“Remember I said every trade union has a right to choose any political alignment as they see fit. My primary intention would be to unite BOPEU and BOFEPUSU in the best interest of the workers then after they have united and forged common solidarity if they want to collectively throw in their support to our course as the UDC we will welcome them. We want to take over in 2019 and any support that seeks to assist us achieve that is highly welcome,” he said.


DINGAKE DID NOTHING WRONG  


Boko also shared his sentiments on BCP presidential spokesperson, Martin Dingake representing BOPEU: “Well, the reality is as a private lawyer you have a right to represent any client of your choice without political judgment. I personally see nothing wrong with that, but for the sake of our cooperation that is why I have to organize a meeting with BOFEPUSU and BCP leadership to clear this misconceptions. Dingake did nothing wrong contrary to some of our comrades and party leaders, they are entitled to their opinion but the reality is that a private attorney represents whoever they see fit as long as they are observing their practicing regulations,” explained Boko.


BCP spokesperson Dithapelo Keorapetse had also buttressed that BOPEU and BOFEPUSU must smoke peace pipe. “This unions used to pressure us into uniting as opposition parties, we realized the bigger picture and united as opposition parties in Botswana, they must now lead by example and do the same,” said Keorapetse who is also Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West. Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) president, Bohithetswe Lentswe said unions must unite ‘to reclaim their position in the trade unionism space and advocate for collective bargaining and general review of public service bargaining council constitution’.


The leader of BFTU, which is a close ally of BOPEU, underscored the need for united trade unions into advancing workers’ interests adding that the rivalry between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU will only paralyze the collective bargaining efforts. He further expressed disappointment at BOFEPUSU’s decision to withdraw from the Public Service Bargaining Council. He said the decision was reactionary and won’t help the workers course.


However BOPEU President Masego Mogwera indicated that BOPEU is unshaken on advancing workers’ rights. In presidential message read during the May Day commemoration in her absentia, Mogwera stated categorically that BOPEU will not associate with any political organization or whoever is aligned to any partisan political party at the expense of workers’ rights

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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