Acting High Court Judge Justice Godfrey Radijeng has this week ordered that the case in which Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPPPUSU) wanted court to instruct government to come back to the salary negotiation talks as “not urgent.”
Government parties at the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) have refused to continue with the salary talks’ weeks after commencement in October. They were citing a pending court case filed by BOFEPPPUSU at the High Court before Justice Tshepo Motswagole – that will determine and make a ruling once and for all on the “scope of the Bargaining Council” that is currently under dispute.
When making a judgement this week in Lobatse High Court Justice Radijeng stated briefly that the case is “not urgent” and he did not go into the merits.
Speaking to Weekend Post shortly after the case, BOFEPPPUSU, Secretary General Tobokani Rari also confirmed that “the outcome of the court case is that the judge has indicated that the case is not urgent and the issue of the scope is left to be determined by Justice Motswagole in February 10, 2017.”
“We are really disappointed by the outcome. Our view is that the court has really misdirected itself in finding that this case is not urgent. Remember that this is the very case that the Industrial Court found to be urgent because they were basis of urgency of the case in the fact that there is still a salary negotiation pending,” Rari continued.
He said at the Industrial Court when Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) questioned the legitimacy of BOFEPPPUSU the court agreed that the matter is urgent taking into consideration the aspect that the 2016/17 salary talks were and are still pending.
The same case, he added that went to Court of Appeal and the superior court still agreed that the issue is urgent looking into the fact that the 2016/17 wage negotiation were and are still incomplete. “Now it is surprising that a similar case affecting the same salary talks which are still undecided found that there is no urgency on the matter,” Rari complained.
He insisted that: “so we feel that it is unfortunate and disappointing that at the end of the day, court could not determine that this matter is urgent because the matter in our view is holding the awarding on increment of more than 75 000 employees in this Republic.”
It really baffles one’s mind and disappoints that court could arrive at such a decision in a matter that is so grave that affects more than 75 000 public servants who have not got their increment, the BOFEPPPUSU SG maintained.
We have said this several times, he pointed out that now what they have is two sets of public servants in the public service; that is, those that got the 3% and those that did not get the increase.
According to Rari, this is causing a lot of acrimony in the public service so they thought that cause could also determine that the matter have to be treated urgently. He explained that there is a lot of hostility in the public service between government employees themselves; that is, those awarded the 3% and those that did not get it.
“It is also affecting very much the moral of the public service. So like am saying we are really disappointed that the court had arrived at such decision.”The BOFEPPPUSU leader further told this publication that they will weigh options going forward in which they may resort to moving to want to ask Justice Motswagole to expedite the hearing of the case on the scope.
That includes, he said maybe petitioning him to reconsider the date of the hearing which is next year February so that it gets to be done expeditiously to assist them in resolving the case of “scope.” The other option Rari said might also be that, depending on what they will also be advised by their lawyers, they may have to appeal the outcome of the “urgency case” and ask for a leave to appeal the matter.
The union federation leadership will deliberate on the matter this week and thereafter meet their attorney Mboki Chilisa of Collins Chilisa Consultants who will also advise them on the way forward following their defeat.
According to Rari, they will also be writing and appealing to members to realise that they are in a struggle – fighting to preserve a principle and fighting “a coordinated and organised system.”
“We will notify our members that they should not despair. We are not just fighting for the 3% but they should realise that we are fighting for the bigger principle which is to protect the Bargaining Council and the Bargaining process in this country,” the unionist highlighted.
Rari has maintained to Weekend Post that “our strong view is that we cannot let the Bargaining Council be eroded but we should fight and if it means forfeiting the 3% for the purposes of protecting the Bargaining principle and the Bargaining power in this country let it be.”
He said that is why they approached lawyers with the intention to instruct government to come back to the negotiation table because their conduct of refusing to continue on the basis that the federation union has a case at High Court is “an unreasonable conduct.”
When narrating the event that has led to the court case, Rari said they initially started with a verification process as triggered by the court, which found that Manual Workers have got the numbers to sit in the PSBC.
“Therefore that the union being part of BOFEPPPUSU can now get into the Public Service bargaining Council and start negotiating so we then went to back to the Bargaining Council with the intention to negotiate.”
He said the government then indeed brought in the counter proposal of 3% to the Bargaining Council but they wanted to stick to the amount – which by then they have already implemented. Then before they could start negotiating they needed to come up with the rules of engagement and so the process of negotiations did not start yet.
“But it’s normal that before you start negotiating you have to start talking about the rules of engagement. So when we were talking about the rules of engagement they raised the issue of “who are we negotiating for” as BOFEPPPUSU.”
In other words they were saying what the scope of our negotiations is, Rari said adding that we then indicated to them that the scope of our negotiations is our members – that is we are negotiating for members of those unions only.
The members include Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Land Board & Local Authorities & Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), National Amalgamated Central, Local & Parastatal Manual Workers' Union (NACLPMWU).
According to the BOFEPPPUSU SG, the reason why they were saying that is because the Industrial Court Judgement has then ordered that the members of the applicants (BOFEPPPUSU) are not going to be given a 3% but instead will be allocated to the non-members of BOFEPPPUSU and the non-unionised.
So we then stuck to what the Industrial Court has ruled particularly where they were stating that the members of the union Federation are not supposed to get the 3% salary increment and even to this day they have not received, he justified.
He said while still there, the Industrial Court has also asserted that BOFEPPPUSU has a good case about the scope of the Bargaining Council that is before Justice Tshepo Motswagole.
“It is at this point that the government parties at the PSBC stated that they find it difficult to proceed with the negotiations because we have an issue of the scope of the PSBC in court before Judge Motswagole and that is true.”
But what happened is that, he explained that when the Industrial Court gave its judgement it pointed out that the scope of the PSBC is only limited to those employees whose unions are in the Council. He admits that still by then they felt that the Industrial Court in fact has misdirected itself but as it was interdict, “we couldn’t appeal it.”
What we could only do was to register a fresh case so that deal finally with the issue of scope currently before Justice Motswagole, he asserted. If we could stay with that Industrial Court Judgement, the unionist highlighted its implications.
“It meant that every year when we negotiate at the PSBC and for instance let us say BOPEU would still not be in the PSBC, it would mean that every year when we are in the process of negotiating, government may continue to make unilateral increments and that would only apply for BOPEU members and the non-unionised.”
He continued to state that therefore it would also mean that every year the Bargaining Council would become useless because they would continuously do so. “That is why the judgement of the Industrial Court meant – in essence.”
He recounted that they then thought that they can’t live with the judgement because it will render the PSBC powerless and useless. “So we then approached the court and registered a new case in which case we wanted the High Court to finally determine what the Public Service Act and the constitution of PSBC say about the scope of the PSBC, he said.
In our interpretation both guiding documents are very clear that there shall be a PSBC responsible for conditions of the “public service.” He added that to BOFEPPPUSU it meant that the PSBC can determine terms and conditions for “all the public servants” except those non-unionised members like the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), Botswana Police Service (BPS), Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and others stated in that category.
Rari emphasised categorically that as BOFEPPPUSU they want the outcome of the negotiations of the PSBC to affect the whole of the Public Service. The government has insisted that owing to the case before Justice Motswagole, they felt that they cannot continue with the salary negotiations. Then they maintained that its either BOFEPPPUSU withdraw the case at court or they do not continue with the salary negotiations.
The federation SG said this became difficult for them to withdraw the case because of what they felt the case means for them and therefore told the government party that they cannot withdraw the case and agreed that they disagree.
“After we agreed to disagree we then approached lawyers to say that we intend to instruct government to come back on the negotiation table because their conduct of refusing to continue on the basis that we have a case at High Court is an unreasonable conduct.”
According to Rari, the reasons that we were advanced was to determine who exactly does the outcome of the Bargaining Council affects. “The thing is when you are admitted in the Council you can make a resolution of any form if parties agree. So there was no reason for them to talk about the matter of scope before court as the Council itself can still make a resolution and that’s what we consistently said.”
The issue of scope guides on the parameters of the Bargaining Council and the court case impending before Justice Motswagole is just for theoretical definition so that it is known – the latitude of the PSBC.
Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.
The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.
The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh
The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.
It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.
The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.
Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.
Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.
For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.
Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.
The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.
The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.
In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.
This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.
The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.
These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.
Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.
Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.
According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.
It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.
Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.
Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.
For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.
However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”
The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.
“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.
These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.
“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.
With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.
The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.
Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.
The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.
In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.
According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.
Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.
Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.
Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.
It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.
The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.
Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.
Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.
This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.
The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.
The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.
After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.
At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.
The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.
A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.
Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”
Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.
At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019. It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.
In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.
“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.