Connect with us
Advertisement

Botswana Government goes viral to worker’s 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.
 

Continue Reading

Opinions

Accounting Officers are out of touch with reality

19th October 2020

Parliament, the second arm of State through its parliamentary committees are one of Botswana’s most powerful mechanisms to ensure that government is held accountable at all times. The Accounting Officers are mostly Permanent Secretaries across government Ministries and Chief Executive Officers, Director Generals, Managing Directors of parastatals, state owned enterprises and Civil Society.

So parliament plays its oversight authority via the legislators sitting on a parliamentary committee and Accounting Officers sitting in the hot chair.  When left with no proper checks and balances, the Executive is prone to abuse the arrangement and so systematic oversight of the executive is usually carried out by parliamentary committees.  They track the work of various government departments and ministries, and conduct scrutiny into important aspects of their policy, direction and administration.

It is not rocket science that effective oversight requires that committees be totally independent and able to set their own agendas and have the power to summon ministers and top civil servants to appear and answer questions. Naturally, Accounting Officers are the highest ranking officials in the government hierarchy apart from cabinet Ministers and as such wield much power and influence in the performance of government.  To illustrate further, government performance is largely owed to the strategic and policy direction of top technocrats in various Ministries.

It is disheartening to point out that the recent parliament committees — as has been the case all over the years — has laid bare the incompetency, inadequacy and ineptitude of people bestowed with great responsibilities in public offices. To say that they are ineffective and inefficient sounds as an understatement. Some appear useless and hopeless when it comes to running the government despite the huge responsibility they possess.

If we were uncertain about the degree at which the Accounting Officers are incompetent, the ongoing parliament committees provide a glaring answer.  It is not an exaggeration to say that ordinary people on the streets have been held ransom by these technocrats who enjoy their air conditioned offices and relish being chauffeured around in luxurious BX SUV’s while the rest of the citizenry continue to suffer. Because of such high life the Accounting Officers seem to have, with time, they have gotten out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve.

An example; when appearing before the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Office of the President Permanent Secretary, Thuso Ramodimoosi, looked reluctant to admit misuse of public funds. Although it is clear funds were misused, he looked unbothered when committee members grilled him over the P80 million Orapa House building that has since morphed into a white elephant for close to 10 successive years. To him, it seems it did not matter much and PAC members were worried for nothing.

On a separate day, another Accounting officer, Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Naledi Mosalakatane, was not shy to reveal to PAC upon cross-examination that there exist more than 6 000 vacancies in government. Whatever reasons she gave as an excuse, they were not convincing and the committee looked sceptical too. She was faltering and seemed not to have a sense of urgency over the matter no matter how critical it is to the populace.

Botswana’s unemployment rate hoovers around 18 percent in a country where majority of the population is the youth, and the most affected by unemployment. It is still unclear why DPSM could underplay such a critical matter that may threaten the peace and stability of the country.
Accounting Officers clearly appear out of touch with the reality out there – if the PAC examinations are anything to go by.

Ideally the DPSM Director could be dropping the vacancy post digits while sourcing funds and setting timelines for the spaces to be filled as a matter of urgency so that the citizens get employed to feed their families and get out of unemployment and poverty ravaging the country.
The country should thank parliamentary committees such as PAC to expose these abnormalities and the behaviour of our leaders when in public office. How can a full Accounting Officer downplay the magnitude of the landless problem in Botswana and fail to come with direct solutions tailor made to provide Batswana with the land they desperately need?

Land is a life and death matter for some citizens, as we would know.

When Bonolo Khumotaka, the Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, whom as a top official probably with a lucrative pay too appears to be lacking sense of urgency as she is failing on her key mandate of working around the clock to award the citizens with land especially those who need it most like the marginalised.  If government purports they need P94 billion to service land to address the land crisis what is plan B for government? Are we going to accept it the way it is?

Government should wake up from its slumber and intervene to avoid the 30 years unnecessary waiting period in State land and 13 years in Tribal land.  Accounting Officers are custodians of government policy, they should ensure it is effective and serve its purpose. What we have been doing over the years, has proved that it is not effective, and clearly there is a need for change of direction.

Continue Reading

Opinions

Is it possible to make people part of your business resilience planning after the State of Public Emergency?

12th October 2020

THABO MAJOLA

His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi EK Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, using the powers vested in him to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from the 2nd April 2020 at midnight.

The constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provided that such a declaration could be up to a maximum of 21 days. His Excellency further invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult members of parliament on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus. At this meeting Members of Parliament passed a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and extended its duration by six (6) months.

The passing of the State of Emergency is considered as a very crucial step in fighting the near apocalyptic potential of the Novel COVID-19 virus. One of the interesting initiatives that was developed and extended to the business community was a 3-month wage subsidy that came with a condition that no businesses would retrench for the duration of the State of Public Emergency. This has potentially saved many people’s jobs as most companies would have been extremely quick to reduce expenses by downsizing. Self-preservation as some would call it.

Most organisations would have tried to reduce costs by letting go of people, retreated and tried their best to live long enough to fight another day. In my view there is silver lining that we need to look at and consider. The fact that organisations are not allowed to retrench has forced certain companies to look at the people with a long-term view.

Most leaders have probably had to wonder how they are going to ensure that their people are resilient. Do they have team members who innovate and add value to the organisation during these testing times? Do they even have resilient people or are they just waiting for the inevitable end? Can they really train people and make them resilient? How can your team members be part of your recovery plan? What can they do to avoid losing the capabilities they need to operate meaningfully for the duration of the State of Public Emergency and beyond?

The above questions have forced companies to reimagine the future of work. The truth is that no organisation can operate to its full potential without resilient people. In the normal business cycle, new teams come on board; new business streams open, operations or production sites launch or close; new markets develop, and technology is introduced. All of this provides fresh opportunities – and risks.

The best analogy I have seen of people-focused resilience planning reframes employees as your organisation’s immune system, ready and prepared to anticipate risks and ensure they can tackle challenges, fend off illness and bounce back more quickly.  So, how do you supercharge your organizational immune system to become resilient?

COVID-19 has helped many organisations realize they were not as prepared as they believed themselves to be. Now is the time to take stock and reset for the future. All the strategies and plans prior to COVID-19 arriving in Botswana need to be thrown out of the window and you need to develop a new plan today. There is no room for tweaking or reframing. Botswana has been disrupted and we need to accept and embrace the change. What we initially anticipated as a disease that would take a short term is turning out to be something we are going to have to live with for a much longer time. It is going to be a marathon and therefore businesses need to have a plan to complete this marathon.

Start planning. Planning for change can help reduce employee stress, anxiety, and overall fear, boosting the confidence of staff and stakeholders. Think about conducting and then regularly refreshing a strategic business impact analysis, look at your employee engagement scores, dig into your customer metrics and explore the way people work alongside your behaviours and culture. This research will help to identify what you really want to protect, the risks that you need to plan for and what you need to survive during disruption. Don’t forget to ask your team members for their input. In many cases they are closest to critical business areas and already have ideas to make processes and systems more robust.

Revisit your organisational purpose. Purpose, values and principles are powerful tools. By putting your organisation’s purpose and values front and center, you provide clear decision-making guidelines for yourself and your organisation. There are very tough and interesting decisions to make which have to be made fast; so having guiding principles on which the business believes in will help and assist all decision makers with sanity checking the choices that are in front of them. One noticeable characteristic of companies that adapt well during change is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for beyond shareholder value and how to get things done right.

Revisit your purpose and values. Understand if they have been internalised and are proving useful. If so, find ways to increase their use. If not, adapt them as necessities, to help inspire and guide people while immunizing yourself against future disruption. Design your employee experience. The most resilient, adaptive and high performing companies are made up of people who know each other, like each other, and support each other.

Adaptability requires us to teach other, speak up and discuss problems, and have a collective sense of belonging. Listening to your team members is a powerful and disruptive thing to do. It has the potential to transform the way you manage your organisation. Enlisting employees to help shape employee experience, motivates better performance, increases employee retention and helps you spot issues and risks sooner. More importantly, it gives employees a voice so you can get active and constructive suggestions to make your business more robust by adopting an inclusive approach.

Leaders need to show they care. If you want to build resilience, you must build on a basis of trust. And this means leaders should listen, care, and respond. It’s time to build the entire business model around trust and empathy. Many of the employees will be working under extreme pressure due to the looming question around what will happen when companies have to retrench. As a leader of a company transparency and open communication are the most critical aspects that need to be illustrated.

Take your team member into confidence because if you do have to go through the dreaded excise of retrenchment you have to remember that those people the company retains will judge you based on the process you follow. If you illustrate that the business or organization has no regard for loyalty and commitment, they will never commit to the long-term plans of the organisation which will leave you worse off in the end. Its an absolutely delicate balance but it must all be done in good faith. Hopefully, your organization will avoid this!

This is the best time to revisit your identify and train your people to encourage qualities that build strong, empathetic leadership; self-awareness and control, communication, kindness and psychological safety.  Resilience is the glue that binds functional silos and integrates partners, improves communications, helps you prepare, listen and understand. Most importantly, people-focused resilience helps individuals and teams to think collectively and with empathy – helping you respond and recover faster.

Article written by Thabo Majola, a brand communications expert with a wealth of experience in the field and is Managing Director of Incepta Communications.

Continue Reading

Opinions

Elected officials should guard against personal interest

23rd September 2020

Parliament was this week once again seized with matters that concern them and borders on conflict of interest and abuse of privilege.

The two matters are; review of MPs benefits as well as President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s participation in the bidding for Banyana Farms. For the latter, it should not come as a surprise that President Masisi succeeded in bid.

The President’s business interests have also been in the forefront. While President Masisi is entitled as a citizen to participate in a various businesses in the country or abroad, it is morally deficient for him to participate in a bidding process that is handled by the government he leads. By the virtue of his presidency, Masisi is the head of government and head of State.

Not long ago, former President Festus Mogae suggested that elected officials should consider using blind trust to manage their business interests once they are elected to public office. Though blind trusts are expensive, they are the best way of ensuring confidence in those that serve in public office.

A blind trust is a trust established by the owner (or trustor) giving another party (the trustee) full control of the trust. Blind trusts are often established in situations where individuals want to avoid conflicts of interest between their employment and investments.

The trustee has full discretion over the assets and investments while being charged with managing the assets and any income generated in the trust.

The trustor can terminate the trust, but otherwise exercises no control over the actions taken within the trust and receives no reports from the trustees while the blind trust is in force.

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, has defended President Masisi’s participation in business and in the Banyana Farms bidding. His contention is that, the practise even obtained during the administration of previous presidents.

The President is the most influential figure in the country. His role is representative and he enjoys a plethora of privileges. He is not an ordinary citizen. The President should therefore be mindful of this fact.

We should as a nation continue to thrive for improvement of our laws with the viewing of enhancing good governance. We should accept perpetuation of certain practices on the bases that they are a norm. MPs are custodians of good governance and they should measure up to the demands of their responsibility.

Parliament should not be spared for its role in countenancing these developments. Parliament is charged with the mandate of making laws and providing oversight, but for them to make laws that are meant solely for their benefits as MPs is unethical and from a governance point of view, wrong.

There have been debates in parliament, some dating from past years, about the benefits of MPs including pension benefits. It is of course self-serving for MPs to be deliberating on their compensation and other benefits.

In the past, we have also contended that MPs are not the right people to discuss their own compensation and there has to be Special Committee set for the purpose. This is a practice in advanced democracies.

By suggesting this, we are not suggesting that MP benefits are in anyway lucrative, but we are saying, an independent body may figure out the best way of handling such issues, and even offer MPs better benefits.

In the United Kingdom for example; since 2009 following a scandal relating to abuse of office, set-up Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)

IPSA is responsible for: setting the level of and paying MPs’ annual salaries; paying the salaries of MPs’ staff; drawing up, reviewing, and administering an MP’s allowance scheme; providing MPs with publicly available and information relating to taxation issues; and determining the procedures for investigations and complaints relating to MPs.

Owing to what has happened in the Parliament of Botswana recently, we now need to have a way of limiting what MPs can do especially when it comes to laws that concern them. We cannot be too trusting as a nation.

MPs can abuse office for their own agendas. There is need to act swiftly to deal with the inherent conflict of interest that arise as a result of our legislative setup. A voice of reason should emerge from Parliament to address this unpleasant situation. This cannot be business as usual.

Continue Reading
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!