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Botswana Government goes viral to workers rights

The country enclosed in Southern Africa, with a tiny population of estimated two million inhabitants and better known for its diamonds exploits, with a history of Africa’s shinning democracy appears to regress from its gains since attaining independence in 1966.

The tranquillity and harmony that prevailed in Botswana is customarily derived from the prism of the old Tswana adage that vernacularly runs, “Ntwa kgolo ke ya molomo.” That means Batswana treasured freedom of expression which afforded everyone the liberty to articulate their views without hesitation. Currently Batswana, particularly public service employees are not free to express divergent views because of the State’s Big-brother supremacy.


In 1997 Botswana government ratified international labour standards to promote worker’s rights and welfare. Amongst the domesticated international laws are conventions 87 and 98, which gave workers the latitude to congregate with assemblages of their choice and the freedom to collectively bargain for better conditions of workers and salary negotiations. The move prompted trade unions to play a significant part in advocating for worker’s rights and conditions of service. However, the government played no part in sensitising workers about these conventions, and therefore, workers organisations had to fend for themselves.


Additionally, major feat witnessed the government of Botswana enacting a progressive Public Service Act (PSA) of 2008, which amongst the advanced articles of the act gave trade unions a leeway to engage in a legal strike. This witnessed Botswana Federation of Public Service Trade Union (BOFEPUSU) engaging in an epic national strike that lasted for three months in 2011 over salary increment dispute.

 

PSA of 2008 had another progressive article which afforded trade unions bargaining power to discuss issues affecting and afflicting workers bordering on conditions of service and salary negotiations. Chief among the articles was the one affording workers collective bargaining rights by establishing the National Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC).


National PSBC gave workers through their representation hope that conditions of their service would be discussed in a legally recognised establishment. The government and workers representation at the National PSBC had equal representation though government representatives always had hegemonic power because they mainly negotiated in bad faith.

 

Trade Unions representation could always move from their initial demands but the other party never shook from their positions. The major achievement of workers representatives that will go down in the history of Botswana PSBC was the attainment of public service housing allowance. Though it is minimal the government acceded to the reasons advanced by the workers representatives. The workers representation also pushed for workers to be fully salaried while on study leave, which was never the case before.


The establishment of the PSBC strengthened trade unions and workers consciousness grew tremendously. In times of salary standoffs trade unions’ picketed workers and moved around the country informing members of PSBC talks. More workers started to learn about their rights and trade unions became stronger because they articulated issues that prompted workers associate.

 

When the government technocrats realised that Bofepusu has grown in leaps and bounds they orchestrated the scheme to destroy the federation and make it irrelevant. PSBC was mainly targeted since the government rightly observed that the forum was the main source of strength of the federation. They came up with legal reforms to amend the Public Service Act to weaken trade union bargaining leverage in the PSBC. The following captured summations are some of the amended laws which are intended to cripple trade unions:


Only Public Officers can be representatives of trade unions admitted to the PSBC. Previously trade unions had freedom to choose their bargaining representatives without the interference of the government. Trade unions could hire academia, professionals and university dons to represent them on specific issues of discussion. They could as well invite trade union employees who brought immense knowledge and expertise to the bargaining council. Since public service trade unions have financial muscle they also poached experts from the government to counteract the regime’s moves. The government then formulated this draconian law to curtail workers power.


The recognition will entitle a union to one seat at the PSBC. Bofepusu is the only federation in the public sector with legal bargaining rights in the country. It has four affiliates and it means that each trade union will bring a single representative, basically one representation in an Acting Jointly Arrangement (AJA) model. The model allows trade unions to form a coalition for purposes of bargaining provided one of the parties meets the employer’s threshold. Previously trade union representatives were eight in number with an additional observer team. This entitlement should be left to the constitution of the PSBC to determine the scope of representation, which must be a consensus of both the employer and workers organisations.


The government can confer a benefit to an employee notwithstanding ongoing negotiations. This move intends to divide trade unions as the government may award salary increment or any other benefit despite ongoing salary talks. The government may award the benefits in the pretext that workers need increment notwithstanding ongoing negotiations.

 

The government recently awarded a unilateral paltry salary increment to workers, which Bofepusu took the matter to court for overruling PSBC. The decision has since been rescinded as the case went into Bofepusu favour. Now the PSBC has strengthened workers hegemony, that ultimately angered the government and it reacted by altering the PSA draconian articles to pass into new law.


The Secretariat of the PSBC shall be the Director of Public Service Management and under the supervision of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Administration. The duty of the General Secretary encompasses the administrative running of the council. Amazingly, it also gives the Minister the powers to appoint the Chairperson and the deputy of the Council. The decision to adjust this clause is solely to appoint government stooges who will work on commands and under full supervision of government enclave. Previously the PSBC Secretariat was appointed by the consensus of both the employer and employees.


That disputes or appeals thereto, between public officers and the employer will be referred to the Commissioner of labour in terms of the Trade Dispute Act, 2003 instead of the PSBC. This was another great law that has since been regrettably amended. The PSBC could attend to disputes referred as appeals and the matter viewed with two lenses by both parties. To give the Commissioner the powers to preside over the appeal is regressive because he is a government employee working under direct supervision of the Minister of Labour. Trade union activists targeted by the employer may not have fair hearings given the position of the Commissioner.


Every trade union recognised under this Act may, at the Government’s discretion, be entitled to have authorised representatives of a union who are public officers granted access to Government’s premises for purposes of recruiting members, or holding meetings. Trade union employees normally working as organisers will be barred from entering government premises for purposes of organising.

 

Trade union Organisers are employed on permanent basis to help solidify trade unions structures run effectively. Experience has shown that trade union organisers immensely contribute to edifying organisations because they are chiefly on the ground. Surprisingly, the employer may also impose frequency of visits, duration of interacting with members and control places of convening meetings. This is crystal clear that the government is all out to stifle trade unions organise effectively. Accounting offices in various government offices may celebrate the coming in of this draconian bill to subject workers to servitude.


Government shall not be required to deduct any trade union dues or levies from employees’ wages on behalf of any trade union save for union membership subscriptions. Botswana’s trade unions mainly are economic trade union type, basically business unionism. The unions tend to operate as commercial entities, rather than member-driven organisations. Often unions are financially dependent on income generated by deals on discounted retail goods and services.

 

Sometimes unions partner with business entities for economic burgeoning. The motive is to augment union finances in the endeavour to assisting members meet their needs. At present, majority of Botswana Unions have respectively a Thrift and Loan Scheme for its members. The government move intends to close capital channels for trade unions since they could use capital to sponsor political parties advocating for workers agenda.


The motive of the bill is a clear war waged against Botswana public service employees, primarily BOFEPUSU. The scheme anticipates closing down bargaining council, as well as trade unions by enacting retrogressive objects. Steps used by the regime to close trade unions may temporarily work for the State, but it would be short-lived because the era of rogue and uncompromising governments is over.

 

Progressive governments have gained centre-stage, as collectivism, patriotism, democracy and freedom are tenets of good governance. Regrettably, these new bills conspicuously omit these critical national doctrines. These objects do not even come closer to our national principles which are democracy, unity, development and self-realise.
 

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Opinions

IEC Disrespects Batswana: A Critical Analysis

10th November 2023

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has recently faced significant criticism for its handling of the voter registration exercise. In this prose I aim to shed light on the various instances where the IEC has demonstrated a lack of respect towards the citizens of Botswana, leading to a loss of credibility. By examining the postponements of the registration exercise and the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively, it becomes evident that the institution has disregarded its core mandate and the importance of its role in ensuring fair and transparent elections.

Incompetence or Disrespect?

One possible explanation for the IEC’s behavior is sheer incompetence. It is alarming to consider that the leadership of such a critical institution may lack the understanding of the importance of their mandate. The failure to communicate the reasons for the postponements in a timely manner raises questions about their ability to handle their responsibilities effectively. Furthermore, if the issue lies with government processes, it calls into question whether the IEC has the courage to stand up to the country’s leadership.

Another possibility is that the IEC lacks respect for its core clients, the voters of Botswana. Respect for stakeholders is crucial in building trust, and clear communication is a key component of this. The IEC’s failure to communicate accurate and complete information, despite having access to it, has fueled speculation and mistrust. Additionally, the IEC’s disregard for engaging with political parties, such as the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), further highlights this disrespect. By ignoring the UDC’s request to observe the registration process, the IEC demonstrates a lack of regard for its partners in the electoral exercise.

Rebuilding Trust and Credibility:

While allegations of political interference and security services involvement cannot be ignored, the IEC has a greater responsibility to ensure its own credibility. The institution did manage to refute claims by the DISS Director that the IEC database had been compromised, which is a positive step towards rebuilding trust. However, this remains a small glimmer of hope in the midst of the IEC’s overall disregard for the citizens of Botswana.

To regain the trust of Batswana, the IEC must prioritize respect for its stakeholders. Clear and timely communication is essential in this process. By engaging with political parties and addressing their concerns, the IEC can demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. It is crucial for the IEC to recognize that its credibility is directly linked to the trust it garners from the voters.

Conclusion:

The IEC’s recent actions have raised serious concerns about its credibility and respect for the citizens of Botswana. Whether due to incompetence or a lack of respect for stakeholders, the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively and handle its responsibilities has damaged its reputation. To regain trust and maintain relevance, the IEC must prioritize clear and timely communication, engage with political parties, and demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. Only by respecting the voters of Botswana can the IEC fulfill its crucial role in ensuring free and fair elections.

 

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Opinions

Fuelling Change: The Evolving Dynamics of the Oil and Gas Industry

4th April 2023

The Oil and Gas industry has undergone several significant developments and changes over the last few years. Understanding these developments and trends is crucial towards better appreciating how to navigate the engagement in this space, whether directly in the energy space or in associated value chain roles such as financing.

Here, we explore some of the most notable global events and trends and the potential impact or bearing they have on the local and global market.

Governments and companies around the world have been increasingly focused on transitioning towards renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This shift is motivated by concerns about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Africa, including Botswana, is part of these discussions, as we work to collectively ensure a greener and more sustainable future. Indeed, this is now a greater priority the world over. It aligns closely with the increase in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing being observed. ESG investing has become increasingly popular, and many investors are now looking for companies that are focused on sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. This trend could have significant implications for the oil and fuel industry, which is often viewed as environmentally unsustainable. Relatedly and equally key are the evolving government policies. Government policies and regulations related to the Oil and Gas industry are likely to continue evolving with discussions including incentives for renewable energy and potentially imposing stricter regulations on emissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a strong role. Over the last two years, the pandemic had a profound impact on the Oil and Gas industry (and fuel generally), leading to a significant drop in demand as travel and economic activity slowed down. As a result, oil prices plummeted, with crude oil prices briefly turning negative in April 2020. Most economies have now vaccinated their populations and are in recovery mode, and with the recovery of the economies, there has been recovery of oil prices; however, the pace and sustainability of recovery continues to be dependent on factors such as emergence of new variants of the virus.

This period, which saw increased digital transformation on the whole, also saw accelerated and increased investment in technology. The Oil and Gas industry is expected to continue investing in new digital technologies to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This also means a necessary understanding and subsequent action to address the impacts from the rise of electric vehicles. The growing popularity of electric vehicles is expected to reduce demand for traditional gasoline-powered cars. This has, in turn, had an impact on the demand for oil.

Last but not least, geopolitical tensions have played a tremendous role. Geopolitical tensions between major oil-producing countries can and has impacted the supply of oil and fuel. Ongoing tensions in the Middle East and between the US and Russia could have an impact on global oil prices further, and we must be mindful of this.

On the home front in Botswana, all these discussions are relevant and the subject of discussion in many corporate and even public sector boardrooms. Stanbic Bank Botswana continues to take a lead in supporting the Oil and Gas industry in its current state and as it evolves and navigates these dynamics. This is through providing financing to support Oil and Gas companies’ operations, including investments in new technologies. The Bank offers risk management services to help oil and gas companies to manage risks associated with price fluctuations, supply chain disruptions and regulatory changes. This includes offering hedging products and providing advice on risk management strategies.

Advisory and support for sustainability initiatives that the industry undertakes is also key to ensuring that, as companies navigate complex market conditions, they are more empowered to make informed business decisions. It is important to work with Oil and Gas companies to develop and implement sustainability strategies, such as reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. This is key to how partners such as Stanbic Bank work to support the sector.

Last but not least, Stanbic Bank stands firmly in support of Botswana’s drive in the development of the sector with the view to attain better fuel security and reduce dependence risk on imported fuel. This is crucial towards ensuring a stronger, stabler market, and a core aspect to how we can play a role in helping drive Botswana’s growth.  Continued understanding, learning, and sustainable action are what will help ensure the Oil and Gas sector is supported towards positive, sustainable and impactful growth in a manner that brings social, environmental and economic benefit.

Loago Tshomane is Manager, Client Coverage, Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), Stanbic Bank Botswana

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Opinions

Brands are important

27th March 2023

So, the conclusion is brands are important. I start by concluding because one hopes this is a foregone conclusion given the furore that erupts over a botched brand. If a fast food chef bungles a food order, there’d be possibly some isolated complaint thrown. However, if the same company’s marketing expert or agency cooks up a tasteless brand there is a country-wide outcry. Why?  Perhaps this is because brands affect us more deeply than we care to understand or admit. The fact that the uproar might be equal parts of schadenfreude, black twitter-esque criticism and, disappointment does not take away from the decibel of concern raised.

A good place to start our understanding of a brand is naturally by defining what a brand is. Marty Neumier, the genius who authored The Brand Gap, offers this instructive definition – “A brand is a person’s gut feel about a product or service”. In other words, a brand is not what the company says it is. It is what the people feel it is. It is the sum total of what it means to them. Brands are perceptions. So, brands are defined by individuals not companies. But brands are owned by companies not individuals. Brands are crafted in privacy but consumed publicly. Brands are communal. Granted, you say. But that doesn’t still explain why everybody and their pet dog feel entitled to jump in feet first into a brand slug-fest armed with a hot opinion. True. But consider the following truism.

 

Brands are living. They act as milestones in our past. They are signposts of our identity. Beacons of our triumphs. Indexes of our consumption. Most importantly, they have invaded our very words and world view. Try going for just 24 hours without mentioning a single brand name. Quite difficult, right? Because they live among us they have become one of us. And we have therefore built ‘brand bonds’ with them. For example, iPhone owners gather here. You love your iPhone. It goes everywhere. You turn to it in moments of joy and when we need a quick mood boost. Notice how that ‘relationship’ started with desire as you longingly gazed upon it in a glossy brochure. That quickly progressed to asking other people what they thought about it. Followed by the zero moment of truth were you committed and voted your approval through a purchase. Does that sound like a romantic relationship timeline. You bet it does. Because it is. When we conduct brand workshops we run the Brand Loyalty ™ exercise wherein we test people’s loyalty to their favourite brand(s). The results are always quite intriguing. Most people are willing to pay a 40% premium over the standard price for ‘their’ brand. They simply won’t easily ‘breakup’ with it. Doing so can cause brand ‘heart ache’. There is strong brand elasticity for loved brands.

 

Now that we know brands are communal and endeared, then companies armed with this knowledge, must exercise caution and practise reverence when approaching the subject of rebranding. It’s fragile. The question marketers ought to ask themselves before gleefully jumping into the hot rebranding cauldron is – Do we go for an Evolution (partial rebrand) or a Revolution(full rebrand)? An evolution is incremental. It introduces small but significant changes or additions to the existing visual brand. Here, think of the subtle changes you’ve seen in financial or FMCG brands over the decades. Evolution allows you to redirect the brand without alienating its horde of faithful followers. As humans we love the familiar and certain. Change scares us. Especially if we’ve not been privy to the important but probably blinkered ‘strategy sessions’ ongoing behind the scenes. Revolutions are often messy. They are often hard reset about-turns aiming for a total new look and ‘feel’.

 

 

Hard rebranding is risky business. History is littered with the agony of brands large and small who felt the heat of public disfavour. In January 2009, PepsiCo rebranded the Tropicana. When the newly designed package hit the shelves, consumers were not having it. The New York Times reports that ‘some of the commenting described the new packaging as ‘ugly’ ‘stupid’. They wanted their old one back that showed a ripe orange with a straw in it. Sales dipped 20%. PepsiCo reverted to the old logo and packaging within a month. In 2006 Mastercard had to backtrack away from it’s new logo after public criticism, as did Leeds United, and the clothing brand Gap. AdAge magazine reports that critics most common sentiment about the Gap logo was that it looked like something a child had created using a clip-art gallery. Botswana is no different. University of Botswana had to retreat into the comfort of the known and accepted heritage strong brand.  Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital was badgered with complaints till it ‘adjusted’ its logo.

 

 

So if the landscape of rebranding is so treacherous then whey take the risk? Companies need to soberly assess they need for a rebrand. According to the fellows at Ignyte Branding a rebrand is ignited by the following admissions :

Our brand name no longer reflects our company’s vision.
We’re embarrassed to hand out our business cards.

Our competitive advantage is vague or poorly articulated.
Our brand has lost focus and become too complex to understand. Our business model or strategy has changed.
Our business has outgrown its current brand.
We’re undergoing or recently underwent a merger or acquisition. Our business has moved or expanded its geographic reach.
We need to disassociate our brand from a negative image.
We’re struggling to raise our prices and increase our profit margins. We want to expand our influence and connect to new audiences. We’re not attracting top talent for the positions we need to fill. All the above are good reasons to rebrand.

The downside to this debacle is that companies genuinely needing to rebrand might be hesitant or delay it altogether. The silver lining I guess is that marketing often mocked for its charlatans, is briefly transformed from being the Archilles heel into Thanos’ glove in an instant.

So what does a company need to do to safely navigate the rebranding terrain? Companies need to interrogate their brand purpose thoroughly. Not what they think they stand for but what they authentically represent when seen through the lens of their team members. In our Brand Workshop we use a number of tools to tease out the compelling brand truth. This section always draws amusing insights. Unfailingly, the top management (CEO & CFO)always has a vastly different picture of their brand to the rest of their ExCo and middle management, as do they to the customer-facing officer. We have only come across one company that had good internal alignment. Needless to say that brand is doing superbly well.

There is need a for brand strategies to guide the brand. One observes that most brands ‘make a plan’ as they go along. Little or no deliberate position on Brand audit, Customer research, Brand positioning and purpose, Architecture, Messaging, Naming, Tagline, Brand Training and may more. A brand strategy distils why your business exists beyond making money – its ‘why’. It defines what makes your brand what it is, what differentiates it from the competition and how you want your customers to perceive it. Lacking a brand strategy disadvantages the company in that it appears soul-less and lacking in personality. Naturally, people do not like to hang around humans with nothing to say. A brand strategy understands the value proposition. People don’t buy nails for the nails sake. They buy nails to hammer into the wall to hang pictures of their loved ones. People don’t buy make up because of its several hues and shades. Make up is self-expression. Understanding this arms a brand with an iron clad clad strategy on the brand battlefield.

But perhaps you’ve done the important research and strategy work. It’s still possible to bungle the final look and feel.  A few years ago one large brand had an extensive strategy done. Hopes were high for a top tier brand reveal. The eventual proposed brand was lack-lustre. I distinctly remember, being tasked as local agency to ‘land’ the brand and we outright refused. We could see this was a disaster of epic proportions begging to happen. The brand consultants were summoned to revise the logo. After a several tweaks and compromises the brand landed. It currently exists as one of the country’s largest brands. Getting the logo and visual look right is important. But how does one know if they are on the right path? Using the simile of a brand being a person – The answer is how do you know your outfit is right? It must serve a function, be the right fit and cut, it must be coordinated and lastly it must say something about you. So it is possible to bath in a luxurious bath gel, apply exotic lotion, be facebeat and still somehow wear a faux pas outfit. Avoid that.

Another suggestion is to do the obvious. Pre-test the logo and its look and feel on a cross section of your existing and prospective audience. There are tools to do this. Their feedback can save you money, time and pain. Additionally one must do another obvious check – use Google Image to verify the visual outcome and plain Google search to verify the name. These are so obvious they are hopefully for gone conclusions. But for the brands that have gone ahead without them, I hope you have not concluded your brand journeys as there is a world of opportunity waiting to be unlocked with the right brand strategy key.

Cliff Mada is Head of ArmourGetOn Brand Consultancy, based in Gaborone and Cape Town.

cliff@armourgeton.com

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