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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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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.

“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).

Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.

A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.

The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.

The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.

This has since been denied by the Ministry.  In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.”  Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”

The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term.  “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja.  He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”

Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation.  Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.

It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.

Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.

The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.”  According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.

“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.

Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions.  It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.

“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.

Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.

Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.

According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.”  Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.

It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from.  “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.

Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems.  It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation.  Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.

It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.

“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions.
Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.

“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions.  Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”

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