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P486 million windfall for teachers

Senior teachers at Primary School level across the country will smile all the way to the bank end of this month to receive their salary increments coupled with back pays dating from July 2013.


The salary increase will put them on equal scale with equivalents at Junior and Senior Schools – the disparity which has been going on for 3 years since the implementation of the contentious Levels Of Operation (LOO). The Primary School Senior teachers will hence forth move from C1 to D4 salary scale. According to the scale, C1 is an income of around P 14 000 and D4 falls around P16 000 to P17 000.


Out of the 4 512 Senior teachers across the country with an increment of around P 3000 means they will drain government coffers approximately 486 million pula. There are 752 Primary Schools in Botswana and each Primary School houses around 6 Senior School teachers. This means there are approximately 4 512 Senior School teachers in the country whom will be affected by this windfall.


The court order to increase the salaries of the Primary School Senior teachers was made by Lobatse High Court Justice Godfrey Ntlhomiwa on Friday. He said that the full judgement will be released next week Monday. In the matter Justice Ntlhomiwa ordered that the implementation of LOO to primary school teachers holding positions of responsibility be made retrospective to the month of July 2013, when LOO was first implemented in respect of secondary schools who hold positions of responsibility.


“The Government, is directed in its capacity as employer, to pay the primary school teachers holding positions of responsibility their LOO benefit including the corresponding salary arrears (back-pays) calculated from July 2013, when LOO was first implemented at secondary schools who hold positions of responsibility,” court order states.

 
He also declared that that the Primary School level Senior Teachers are entitled to benefit from LOO without the precondition of a job evaluation assessment. “The government set aside its decision to require Primary School level Senior Teachers to undergo a job evaluation assessment as a precondition to them benefiting from the Levels Of Operation.”


Subsequent to Justice Ntlhomiwa’s ruling, BOSETU Secretary General Tobokani Rari told Weekend Post in collaborative presentation to other union members including Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPPPUSU) president Innocent Tshukudi that the replica effects of the judgement is that government will have to incur the costs which run in “millions.”


According to Rari, the implications of the ruling is that since a court has agreed with them, the Senior teachers will be moved to D4 and when they move to D4 it then means that at D4 currently there are Heads of Departments (HOD’s). “The HOD’s will then have to move from D4 to D3, and on D4 currently we have Deputy School Heads and it means they will have to move from D3 to D 2. On D2 we also have School Heads then they would have to move from D2 to D1,” he said.


The BOSETU SG added that; that’s why they are saying this case has a replica effect. “These are things that are done by people we advise, and we have advised them during the course of the negotiations. They did not take the advice. If during the negotiations when we were trying to avoid this case going to court we tried to advise and they didn’t take the advice. Now the judgement is out in our favour,” Rari stated. Rari also took time to narrate where the matter emanates from.


He said just to take people back a little bit, they would recall that in 2012, because of the two union’s (BOSETU and BTU)’s pressure from government they have always said there is no reason why they can have different people having been pitched at different levels only on the basis of where they are teaching.


He added that since 1994, when scheme of service was instigated, it created that at primary schools post of responsibility start at salary scale C2. Then post of responsibility at Junior Schools, he added that rank from C1 and post of responsibility at senior school stood at D4.


“So we have always put pressure to say that these differences are out of the fact that you are teaching at a certain level and not out of any merit, but there were purely out of the fact that somebody is at Primary while the other is at Junior School and another at Senior School.”  


And because of the pressure since 1994, he conceded that the government loosened up and stated that they will unravel Levels Of all Operations. “Then they said it means teachers at Junior school, their post of responsibility will be pitched to the level of those at Senior which is D4. Then when they were supposed to do the same with those teachers at Primary School then did not and instead said their post of responsibility will start at C1,” Rari pointed out.


But after having said that, BOSETU SG said they agreed that in terms of movement, teachers at Primary can move without being promoted up to salary scale C1. “Remember C1 is being held by a Senior teacher with a responsibility.” He also observed that then it happened that starting in 2014, it happened that Senior teachers without responsibility at C2 now they moved and got to C1 and then this means they shared a scale with those with a responsibility.


“The trade unions during negotiations of Level of Operations, indicated that it would not work, that instead it will create a management crisis because when those without a responsibility are made to share a scale with those with a responsibility it means there will be a big problem of management because those with a responsibility will be at the same scale with their Juniors.” So 2014 that crisis passed, which we have warned about prior during the course of negotiations of Levels of Operation, he observed.


According to Rari, then they moved and they had several meetings with the ministry to try to knock sense to their head and tell them that they are heated on a crisis and let’s see if the Senior teachers at Primary be pitched at salary of D4 like their counterparts at Juniors and Senior Schools.


“So our negotiations did not bear any fruits to an extent that at some point they were saying that lets do job evaluation as a pre-requisite that they can only be moved to D4 based on the outcome of the job evaluation.” On his part, BTU Secretary General Agang Gabana said what is key about the matter is that even in promotions the issue at hand was catastrophic at Primary Schools.


He continued: “everyone was confused as to on what basis are the teachers being promoted on, they were those that were already Senior teachers but were promoted, there were those who were just on that scale.” Gabana said they didn’t know also on what basis they were promoting those presumed to be accelerating to C1, and this he said led to a lot of commotions among the 10 education regions in the country.


According to BTU SG, this issue comes at a time in which some quarters have already rendered unions useless. “So this case is a landmark case as it speaks paramount to further issues of Bargaining that topical issues which has been there like what has been said that we were inciting members to refuse the 3% public servants salary increment.”


He maintained that the thing is they have always said collective bargaining council does not only exists for issues of salary adjustments as other people want to confine its scope to. “So today is a big victory that I believe our members understands in a broader perspectives the role that unions play in our country. This is a collective bargaining issue.”  


“Ofcourse as BTU we acting jointly with BOSETU in this matter but it’s a matter that shows it’s a collective issue that I hope going forward our membership will grow tremendously because of this issue. It will also make us to settle well because the relevance of our existence has been proven today and our win speaks a lot on us.” The unions BTU and BOSETU took the matter to court and they were represented by lawyer Joseph Akoonyatse while the Attorney General’s chambers stood in for the government of Botswana.

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Dingake talks about gay rights in tribute to Kirby

11th January 2022
Dingake

Former High Court Judge Professor Key Dingake has made his opinion known about gay rights in a glowing tribute to his retired former colleague Justice Ian Kirby.

Late last month a panel of Court of Appeal (CoA) led by Judge Kirby upheld a 2019 High Court ruling that decriminalised same-sex relations and stroke down two sections in the penal code. In his seminal judgment, Justice Kirby said these sections served only to incentivize law enforcement agents to become keyhole peepers and intruders into the private space of citizens.

In this case one Letsweletse Motshidiemang, a homosexual had instituted an application in the High Court challenging the constitutionality of Sections 164 (a) and 164 (c).

Paying tribute to Justice Kirby, Justice Dingake said overall the Kirby court was restrained and brilliant in its genre of conservatism. Judge Dingake said the case of Motshidiemang is evidence of the latter. “In a stroke of a pen, he ended the long and tortuous road to equality of gay people.

I was reminded of this long and tortuous road by a piece written by, Zackie Achmat, that indefatigable human right defender, recently, when he reflected on a union of gay men, one Khoi and the other a Dutch sailor, way back in 1735, who for their love for each other were brutally murdered,” Justice Dingake said.

He said in truth Botswana’s Constitution never denied the right to equality for gay men. It was society and the judges who did – some arguing that the time is not right to extend equality rights to gay persons – forgetting the self-evident truth that we are all born equal and that rights are not negotiable – not even with Judges.

“It ought to be remembered that the Motshidiemang case was similar to the case of Kanani that preceded it. Justice Kirby was part of the panel that sat in Kanani. In Kanani he agreed with the other Justices and refused to strike down the offensive legislation. The same legislation he struck down in Motshidiemang.

There is no doubt in my mind that Kanani was wrongly decided at the time, as several of my writings thereafter contended, having regard to the legal injunction to always interpret constitutional rights liberally and to treat the constitution as a living organism,” Justice Dingake wrote.

He added that in Kanani the Court of Appeal held back “our march to freedom for more than a decade – and perpetuated the suffering of gay persons as their being was criminalized based on an inaccurate and narrow reading of the Constitution”.

The truth of the matter is that, he said, our Constitution never denied gay persons the rights to equality and the right not to be discriminated against. “Some sections of society (may be the majority) and the bench did so. The bench did so because of the choices they exercised.

They chose to interpret the constitution restrictively, which is not permissible; they chose to be blown away by ‘public opinion’, which was not right, and they chose not read: ‘sexual orientation’, into section 15 of the constitution, which they could have done.”

Botswana’s Constitution he said commands that it be interpreted in a manner that saves humanity from the scourge of indignity – and with a sense of the future – and to secure the rights of generations yet to be born. It is always the duty of Judges to breathe life into the Constitution – and to effect the promise of the Constitution – by among other things rejecting the tyranny of the majority.

“Section 3, the principal section conferring fundamental human rights in Botswana has always been there. It was ignored in Kanani, and thankfully given effect to in Motshidiemang.  A big lesson here is the often overlooked fact: Judges matter! Who the Judge is may be life changing in any given matter.

When one considers the decision in Kanani and Motshidiemang, based on similar facts and the diametrically opposed conclusions, one may be given to think that may be: ‘the constitution is what the Judges say it is’, at any given time, as that brilliant luminary judge and scholar, Charles Evans Hughes (1862 -1948) LLD, once ruminated.”

Interestingly, Judge Dingake wrote about homosexuality more than 12 years ago in his book ‘Key Aspects of the Constitutional Law of Botswana’. Justice Dingake expressed his views on what was said then to what was said in the recent judgment.

In that book, he began the debate by stating that homosexual issues are not frequently debate in Botswana. “Empirically, the extent of homosexual tendencies is not known. In any event the phenomenon does not appear to be widespread,” the Judge wrote.

He said serious debate however cropped up sometime around August 1995, after president Robert Mugabe’s much publicized anti homosexuals speech at the Harare International Book Show. Even then, he said, the debate was only confined to a small circle of intellectuals, with the broader community generally contemptuous and not willing to engage in serious debate about the issue.

“Although the intellectual community is by no means unanimous, there are some voices, particularly emanating from the University of Botswana, that are calling for equal treatment for homosexuals. Despite the enormous capacity of such arguments to court controversy general response of the public was one of cynicism. This general lack of interest among the general populace contrasts sharply with the enthusiasm and interest on the issue, just across the border, in South Africa, where there are numerous homosexual associations,” he said.

He explained that the South African Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which has paved the way for homosexuals to be employed in the army, an advance that is unparalleled in modern democracies. He also explained that Botswana’s criminal law prohibits consenting adults of the same sex from having a sexual relationship, because that is said to be unnatural.

“Within the framework of Botswana’s Constitution there can be no doubt that the prohibition of sexual relationships between consenting male adults of the same sex is unconstitutional. No free society can, in this era, afford to treat its citizens differently on the basis that is patently irrational.

Every individual, is in terms of the Constitution equal before law and has the right of equal benefit of the law without discrimination. The legal recognition of homosexuals will confirm Botswana as a democratic country that is advancing with time.”

He added that it needs to be said that it is however fruitless to bury “our heads in the sand and hope the issue will disappear for good”. He concluded: “In time we will have to confront the issue head on. In time blind prejudice that stigmatizes homosexual relationships will have to stand up to rational scrutiny. It is advisable not too turn a blind eye to the pain of discrimination suffered by few of our fellow countrymen and women. In a democracy it is unacceptable that the majority should oppress the minority”.

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Electricity prices could go up

11th January 2022
BERA CEO - Rose Seretse

Consumers could pay more for electricity this year, as the government owned power producer, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) plans to increase prices for electricity by 5% with effect from the 1st of April 2022.

BPC recent statement on tariff adjustment shows that with the planned 5% increase in electricity tariffs, electricity prices per kWh could increase by 111 thebe for household users, 226 thebe for government, 148 thebe for commercial businesses and 111 thebe for the mining sector.

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Botswana GDP in upward trajectory as economy recovers

11th January 2022
Peggy Serame & President Masisi

Botswana economy is registering growth as the country emerges from one of its worsts economic recessions since independence, following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

In late December 2021 Statistics Botswana released the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures for the third quarter of 2021.

The nominal GDP for the third quarter of 2021 was P49, 260.5 million compared to P48, 684.0 million registered during the previous quarter. This represents a quarterly increase of 1.2 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.

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