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How a BTV Producer was ‘purged’ in election year

Details indicating how a former Botswana Television (BTV) producer was trailed with transfers and redeployments after allegedly being told he “can’t be trusted in the election year” came to light this week in Court of Appeal documents.


Koketso Joshua Ntopolelang is seeking to overturn the finding of a lower court in dismissing his application for reinstatement to his job as BTV’s head of News and Current Affairs Section (NCAS). Ntopolelang was transferred vvto formerly the Ministry of Minerals Water and Energy Resources (MMEWR) in 2014 to start work as a Principal Public Relations Officer II, a move he challenged at the Industrial Court and came out on top. Ntopolelang had been employed at BTV since 2002.


A month before this happened; court papers indicate that Ntopolelang had been in a meeting with Director of Broadcasting Services, Lesole Obonye whereat the latter told him that he was not trusted as this was election year (2014). The papers indicate that Obonye further intimated that they had to find someone who they could trust to head the NCAS.


In a document that makes part of court papers, Ntopolelang writes about Obonye’s words: “Gase gore gare bone bokgoni jwa gago jaaka o bona DPS (Deputy Permanent Secretary) a kgona go go assigner high profile assignments. Re ntse re diilwe ke go bua le bagolo and we were waiting for instructions…kana ke ngwaga wa ditlhopho. Ga se gore gare bone bokgoni jwa gago…ba batla yo ba mo tshephang.” reads the document in part.


Ntopolelang further notes that Obonye mentioned the phrase ‘ke ngwaga wa ditlhopo’ three times. Immediately after this encounter, Ntopolelang e-mailed Obonye to ascertain whether he had heard him properly that he cannot be trusted especially on election year, but he never got a response via the same medium.


In the e-mail, Ntopolelang asked five questions: “Are we appointed on political trust (sic) or ability and qualifications? Since when has this been in practice and why aren’t we being told about it? How am I to interpret this (sic) statements? How have I become unreliable in the eyes of ‘bagolo’? What has the top administration done to remove my unreliability or at least show what wrong I am doing?


Instead of a rejoinder by e-mail, he received a telephone call wherein Obonye apparently made no secret of his mistrust of e-mail correspondence as “it might fall into a pair of wrong hands” It is Ntopolelang’s evidence that nearly five months later, on the 14th of August he was assigned to cover the Makgadikgadi Sky Dive.


He states in his papers that, in a strange turn of events he received a text message on the same day from the General Manager to the effect that the Deputy Permanent Secretary has instructed that he should not go on the trip because he had an assignment for him.
Ntopolelang further states that the next day he was summoned to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Kebonye Moepeng’s office where she informed him that she was transferring him to MMEWR.


“I was left in shock because this was a matter that had never been discussed with me,” Ntopolelang states. He further notes that Moepeng proceeded to ask him whether he wanted to start his new job immediately or on the 1st of September. He however states that he countered by drawing Moepeng’s attention to a grievance he raised that he suspected had motivated his transfer, intimating that it be addressed first. The grievance arose from the words allegedly uttered by Obonye that there was a need for someone else who could be trusted to head the NCAS.


He says that he was made to believe that Moepeng would halt the transfer until his grievance had been dealt with and there has been meaningful discussion with respect to the motives of his transfer and the prejudice he stood to endure.
Ntopolelang however states that to his shock, on the 22nd of August he received a letter of the same date transferring him to MMEWR.


The letter, signed off by Moepeng and seen by WeekendPost curtly states: “you are hereby transferred as Principal Public Relations Officer II in the Ministry of Minerals Water and Energy Resources. The transfer above has no effect on your present salary scale and shall take effect from 1st September 2014”.


He goes on to say that he immediately notified his trade union, Botswana Public Employees Union which subsequently arranged for him to brief lawyers. The Industrial Court halted this transfer on the 5th and 12th of October. However unbeknownst to Ntopolelang, there was still much more to come from his employer.


After failing to eject him from the NCAS and the Mass Media Complex and despite a court order halting the transfer, court documents indicate that as the case dragged on at the Industrial Court before the final rule nisi was issued, the employer slapped Ntopolelang with another letter removing him from the NCAS to the Programs Section with immediate effect.


It is Ntopolelang’s evidence that after the Industrial Court order restraining his transfer was issued, he was called into the office of Acting BTV General Manager, Solly Nageng where he was told about the redeployment to work at Programs section. He states that he was told he was to function as Head of Programs and that he was to ask for work from Nageng. He also denied that there existed a staff shortage at his new section. In fact, he said that the purported acute staff shortage was at the NCAS which was witnessed by the engagement of programs staff in producing news during and after elections.


“The news section is highly short staffed. It is currently operating with about 15 staff members(permanent and pensionable) in headquarters-this includes the editors and journalists whilst in the programs section we are talking of +-18.Given the workload of the two sections and patterns of work, one can clearly see where short staffing exists.”


He further states: “stories are often turned down or delayed because of staff shortage. Staff members are complaining in the news section because of being overworked.” Ntopolelang relaunched his bid at the Court of Appeal this week after an unsuccessful round at a lower court. His appeal is marshalled by Mboki Chilisa of Collins Chilisa Consultants. Chilisa suggested that Ntopolelang was ‘ambushed’ by Moepeng and characterised the transfer as “not a light issue that could be discussed without prior notice.”


He also stated that all the events suggest Ntopolelang’s transfer was done in bad faith because he had raised a grievance against his superior’s statements. “On facts it’s clear that no meaningful conversation had taken place. The only issue that decision makers seemed keen on was whether the transfer could be immediate or on the first of September.” he argued.


Chilisa further argued that it seems that the reason for the transfer was not to genuinely fill up the MMEWR post considering the fact that the post had been vacant for quite some time. He also argued that Moepeng had violated section 8.4 of the General Rules which guides public service transfers that outlines that in cases of filling posts, priority must always be given to employees already in the ministry.


Attorney representing government in the case of Kushata Mabophiwa was constantly on the defensive on why Ntopolelang was not advised to make representations on his transfer. While Mabophiwa conceded that Ntopolelang was not advised that he could make representations, she however insisted that he had 7 days to do that. To this, Justice Lord Abernathy responded: “How would he know that he is allowed to make representations and why not 14 days?”


The three judge panel also noted that an employer has to approach issues of transfers with an open mind willing to consider the case presented by an employee. The case awaits judgement.

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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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