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.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.