High Court Judge, Justice Key Oagile Dingake has said it is important that trade unions appreciate the nature and essence of law so that that they don’t regard law as the magic wand to resolve their problems and then overburden the courts with matters that can be resolved by stakeholders.
Speaking at a Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) National Executive Committee congress in Francistown this week, Dingake said unions should use courts only as a last resort. “There is always a danger that the courts’ credibility as impartial arbiters may suffer when the courts are used as sites of struggle in high profile polycentric cases whose resolution is not entirely dependent on textual provisions of the law, but rather on value judgements of the justices of the court,” he said.
He stressed further, “As unions your main asset is the strength of your organizations; your ability to organize, defend and protect your interests. You need to understand and appreciate that law is a technique for the regulation of power. This is true of labour law. Power – the capacity effectively to direct the behaviour of others – is unevenly distributed – in all societies. The power to make and enforce laws is social power. This power rests on many foundations, it may be based on prestige, dominance, wealth and ability to organise. The latter is the source of your power.”
Justice Dingake used the words of Dikgang Moseneke, formerly the Deputy chief Justice of South Africa, and recently retired, would said: “You are your own liberators”. Lawyers and other experts may assist, but ultimately, you are your own liberators. He said in pursuing their demands on what they consider due to them; unions must be reasonable, rational and fair. He indicated that they must refrain from making demands that are irrational and are not justifiable.
“Your demands must always be evidence driven. Nothing should be given that cannot be justified. Similarly, your employers must justify all its positions on the basis of evidence, and nothing less. The culture of justification is part and parcel of a constitutional state ruled in accordance with the constitution, not the whims and caprices of anyone.”
Dingake said unions must do nothing that contravenes the law; especially, the spirit and text of the constitution. Similarly government as the employer must do so; the latter, arguably having a heavier duty to lead by example; because disobedience of the law on its part amounts to saying to the populace that it is fine to disobey the law, the Judge of the High Court said.
He pointed out that in the recent past BOPEU has been hailed as the union of choice by its members; it has been at the forefront of advancing and securing diverse range of benefits, maintaining and improving the living and working conditions of workers’ in Botswana and regulating the relations between workers and employers.
“Indeed it is true that a successful union is one that is internally strong that it may be effective in protecting the interests of workers. However, history has shown us that the success of unions also lie with their relationship, rapport and liaison with employers as equal partners at the table. Sadly, it has become more evident that there are opposing forces between the workers’ and employers on the subject of Unions and various labour laws.”
Dingake said often at times, employers the world over, have tended to adopt adversarial attitude towards Trade Unions, resisting Unions for the same reasons that workers desire them. “As we celebrate fifty years of self-rule this attitude can and should no longer stand if we are to build a Botswana for all in which its economic success will be based on workers as the drivers of the economy.”
Justice Dingake observed that the economy will not advance if we don’t take care of the welfare of those who create the country’s wealth, the workers. He argued that workers need a living wage and not so much minimum wage. He said a minimum wage is about setting a wage floor under which no worker can earn.
“A living wage on the other hand is the minimum income that necessary for a worker to meet his needs and that of his or her family. The scales of justice needs to be delicately balanced so that the wage regime does not in anyway imperil the development of the country. Slave wages are known undermine economic growth,” he explained.
Justice Dingake urged unions to pay attention, to the matter of decent of decent work as defined by the ILO. He said the decent work agenda focusses on job creation, rights at work, social protection and social dialogue, with gender equality. The term decent work is promoted through the Decent Agenda and was coined by the Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Mr. Juan Somavia in 1999, who defined decent work as “productive work in which rights are protected, which generates an adequate income with adequate social protection.
It marks the high road to economic and social development, a road in which employment, income and social protection can be achieved without compromising workers’ rights and sound standards” The ILO is also committed to promoting policies on wages and incomes that ensure a just share for all.
Justice Dingake urged all stakeholders in the labour relations to work together as equal partners in the interest of our country. He observed that a motivated and hardworking workforce is in the interest of the country. The Judge further advised that the workforce must engage with the employer with respect and their demands must be evidence based.
“Similarly, the government response or position must be evidence based. Trade Unions are critical in maintaining workplace stability. A motivated public service tends to render high quality service to the public. In a properly functioning democracy no law should offend the values of freedom, human dignity and non discrimination. In our constitutional state, the above values define who we are as a people,” he said.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.