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High Court exposes BUAN’s anti-union bent

The newly re-branded Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) is said to have deprived its staff members who are union members a deserved 3% inflation adjustment.

According to a judgement delivered by the Industrial Court Judge, Annah Mathiba this week, the court was satisfied that the action by BUAN to award a 3% cost of living salary adjustment to only non-unionised university employees was “a discriminatory practice.” She states that it was also “unfair” to the members of National Amalgamated Local & Central Government & Parastatal Workers Union who are employed by the university.

“The discrimination was unlawful,” Mathiba stated in the judgement. The matter was litigated by Manual Workers Union against the Agricultural University. The Judge as a result ordered that “BUAN is therefore directed to extend the same benefit of the 3% cost of living salary adjustment to members of Manual Workers who are under the employ of BUAN.” She stated that the payment should also be back paid from 1st April 2016 and shall be effected from their March 2017 salaries.

The Judge also observed that an attorney representing BUAN, Mpho Gabegwe’s contention was that the current position in the public service is that the Manual Workers members do not enjoy the 3% salary increase that was awarded to the public service in 2016 and therefore that public service position is binding on the BUAN unionised employees.

“That is a far-fetched argument.  The public service position as espoused in a J2470 (previous judgement) is that there is a 3% salary adjustment to all public service employees.  The Manual Workers Union and other public sector unions rejected that increase, only in so far as the public sector workers they were representing are concerned,” Judge Mathiba pointed out.   

She contended that therefore the rejection of unionized members by the university can only be done with an intension of discriminating unionised employees of the university with a clear goal of frustrating their continued participation in union activities. “If at all BUAN had good intensions, just like the public service, they should have made the 3% salary increase offer open to all employees and also await to hear from unionised employees if they too, like public sector workers, were not accepting the gift.”

The Judge further explained that it becomes a discriminatory practice when the employer now assumes wrongly, that the Manual Workers would also reject the offer and proceed to treat employees differently. It is understood in the judgement, that BUAN attorney had argued that Clause 11 of the parties’ agreement links BUAN’s salaries to those of the public service and therefore in the J2470 decision the Manual Workers had rejected the 3% salary increase.  

The J2470 refers to a previous Judgment delivered by Justice Harold Ruhukya at the Industrial Court. In respect of the judgement, Judge Mathiba inisisted that the Public Service Bargaining Council has no relationship to the Agricultural Varsity and its employees and; that the BUAN’s employees were not part of the Public Sector employees that were involved in that case.

Judge Mathiba also maintained that “the court accepts Mr Chilisa’s argument that, in failing to include the unionised members under the pretext of the decision in J2470, BUAN misunderstood the judgment because in this case the Manual Workers wants the 3% increment for its members and clearly the union’s members are not part of the public service bargaining council and their employment is derived from the statute that established the university.”

Meanwhile, according to clause 3.0 of the Freedom of Association forming the parties agreement, states that: “the Parties endorse the principle of freedom of association and recognize the right of employees to belong to the Union of their choice as contemplated by Section 56 of the Trade Union and Employers Organisations Act.  The Parties shall not interfere with these rights and shall neither force employees to either join or resign, nor hinder eligible employees from joining a Union of their choice.”

It further states that “the Parties agree that all employees eligible to join the Union shall be free to choose to join the Union or not as they may wish, and the College and the Union undertakes not to discriminate against any employee on account of her membership or non-membership of the Union.” The Judge insisted in the judgement that, so, in awarding an increment to only non-union members, the university breached their own agreement.

“The result of this breach is that there is now disparity between the employees who are unionized and those who are not.  At the end of the day, in the mind of the BUAN’s employees, one is better off without a union.  This perception is very dangerous in a progressive member country of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), whose key deliverable is a tripartism system that ensures that employees are at liberty to join a worker’s union that will represent their interest in the workplace.”

The Judge further stated that therefore this disparity is a mark of discrimination and consequently she would hasten to agree with Mr Chilisa’s complaint that this could even shrink membership of the union since unionized members would be tempted to join the section that enjoys financial rewards. In Botswana, discrimination on the grounds of trade union membership is prohibited.

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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