The Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPPPUSU) will hold a “special congress” to consult members on the much-talked about 3% that was not awarded to its affiliates.
The union federation, through the High Court, interdicted the awarding of the 3% to “all” government employees but court could only accede to interdict the increment to only its members (BOFEPUSU). The contentious development was reached following government’s resolution to grant the 3% increment to public servants in April last year (2015). The increment was provided by the President Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s administration – outside the ambit of the Bargaining Council.
It is understood that the move has since created a rift, acrimony and hostility between BOFEPPPUSU members who on one hand are not awarded the increment and non-BOFEPPPUSU members as well as the non-unionised who were provided with the increment. Weekend Post understands that the bone of contention advanced by the union federation is focused on the fight for the independence of the Public Servants Bargaining Council and to ensure that the bargaining power is not eroded. If anything, and to ensure the power remains, BOFEPPPUSU says it remains ready to forfeit the 3% increment.
Last week, the union dealt a heavy blow at the High Court as the presiding Acting Judge Godfrey Radijeng ruled that the matter in which they wanted to instruct government to go back to the salary negotiations is “not urgent.” Although he did not go into the merits of his judgement delivery, it is strongly believed that a similar matter seeking for the “scope of the PSBC” currently before Justice Tshepo Motswagole of the High Court – due for next year February – may have triggered the judgement.
This publication has gathered that the federation leadership met over the weekend following the judgement and arrived at a decision to the effect that: “there is need to thoroughly brief and consult members” on the matter and that “there will be a special congress for the federation on 17th December 2016.” It is understood that following the Special Congress, there shall be thorough consultation with the structures during the 1st and the 2nd weeks of January 2017.
Speaking to Weekend Post this week Secretary General of BOFEPPPUSU, Tobokani Rari confirmed that indeed the federation is undertaking a special congress this weekend. “Yes, leadership met over the weekend and took a decision to undertake a special congress to brief leaders of structures of various unions affiliated to BOFEPPPUSU to brief them out on the outcome of the court case which sought to instruct government back to the salary talks and the ruling’s implications as well as way forward,” Rari told this publication.
Rari stated that the purpose of the special congress is primarily for the union leadership to report what transpired at the salary negotiations table particularly with regard to the contentious 3% increment and the recent court cases. The unionist emphasized the need and importance of getting a mandate from the members on critical issues that they are facing. “We now need to go back to them to get a fresh mandate,” he said boldly as the union is continuing to face countless battles at court.
According to Rari, initially the members have given them a go-ahead and legitimate mandate to ignore the 3% salary raise and instead ordered them to channel their energies on fighting for the “bargaining power” to avoid future repeating’s of the unilateral increments prone to government. “If the BOFEPPPUSU members also want the 3% provocative salary rise – although awarded outside PSBC – they should say so as well. If they also want to protect and preserve the power and integrity of the Bargaining Council they should point that as well at the special congress and we will implement the mandate as is. We are simply servants of the union members.”
The BOFEPPPUSU SG insisted that the Trade Unions are run by mandates from the people and therefore the members should do the talking and leadership only implements their (members) aspirations. The special congress will be attended by members of the Executive, chairpersons of regions and branches from the affiliate members.
BOFEPPPUSU affiliates include Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Landboard and Local Authorities & Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), National Amalgamated Central, Local & Parastatal Manual Workers Union (NACLPMWU). Union federation to appeal recent judgement to force gov’t back to the salary talks
Rari said they have resolved to appeal the case in which they sought to instruct government parties to come back at the PSBC to continue negotiating for the public servants salary increase and conditions of service. He also pointed out that the federation, having met its lawyers in which they had lengthy discussions about legal possibilities; consequently the leadership ended up with an informed decision and resolved to appeal the matter. The BOFEPPPUSU SG said the notice of appeal has been registered with the Court of Appeal on Wednesday to start with the process of appealing.
“We have absolutely nothing to lose by appealing the matter. If the Court of Appeal does not uphold the High court ruling we will continue negotiating the salaries. If we lose the appeal we will have to remain with the predicament of waiting for case before Justice Motswagole on scope next year February,” he said.
He also added that if members at the special congress agree that the members be awarded the 3% then it won’t stop the bargaining process for salaries of 2016/17 that are also pending. “The appeal will still remain relevant,” Rari maintained.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.