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Salary negotiations in another deadlock

The salary negotiations between government and Botswana Federation of Public and Private Sectors Union (BOFEPPUSU) have this week suffered another blow.


Weekend Post has established that the talks have reached a new deadlock hardly 2 weeks following the commencement of Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) proceedings. This comes after the union party tabled their proposal of a whopping 10.5% salary increment as well as improved conditions of service for their membership during the first sitting of the talks.


In return it is understood that government has flatly declined to counter the union proposal, sparking debates that they may be on agenda to delay the talks further with a purpose to render the PSBC irrelevant and consequently continue with unilateral increments.
Government has recently unilaterally increased public servants salaries by 3%, citing the union court battles as procrastinating. In the court battle, BOFEPPUSU was in dispute with Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) over who should sit or not sit in the PSBC. This happened subsequent to the BOPEU’s withdrawal from union federation affiliation.  


“Yes it is true that government party has this week stalled 2016/17 salary negotiations indicating that they have no mandate to continue with the salary negotiations and further they are refusing to respond to the Trade Union proposal of 2017/18 salary negotiations,” BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, told Weekend Post on Friday in an interview.


Motshegwa further lambasted the government representatives at PSBC highlighting that they are never productive. He said the government party aways go to the meeting without mandate, and “they would be continuously on the phone saying "they are calling bagolo". Motshegwa meant that they are calling “top” government officials or politburo.


“At the Bargaining Council, employer representatives are always unreasonable and frustrating the Bargaining Council. In fact they are dedicated to kill the Bargaining Council so that Government alone can unilaterally decide on conditions of service of workers,” the unionist expressed their frustrations.


At this moment, he further pointed out that there is low morale in the Public Service and there are poor conditions of service of workers, and in addition there is animosity and instability in the civil service stemming probably to the delayed talks.
The PSBC operates on a 50/50 representation from government and recognised public service trade unions (BOFEPUSU under acting jointly agreement). Government is currently represented by 8 and union party 8 as well. The PSBC was established by section 50 and 51 of the Public Service Act to negotiate between the employer and public service unions.  


Union put blame on BDP, Molale for dysfunctional PSBC
Union party has blamed the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Eric molale for interfering as well as influencing the government party in the PSBC.  


Motshegwa has stated that since Molale’s days as Permanent Secretary, later as Permanent Secretary to the President, he has always been and continue to be confrontational against Trade Unions and undermine social dialogue mechanism thereby undermining Freedom of Association and the right to Organise, as well as Collective Bargaining.


“The Bargaining Council continues to be disrespected, disregarded and Labour laws violated in the Public Service under the mentorship and influence of Minister Eric Molale,” the BOFEPPUSU leader pointed out.  
According to Motshegwa, they had written to Cabinet seeking to address it on matters of Public Service for dialogue is fundamental in preserving democracy, peace and prosperity.


“But we were however turned down by the Permanent Secretary To The President (PSP), Carter Morupisi, who wrote back saying that we should in turn meet Minister Molale as he is the one responsible for Public service. We wrote to Minister Molale based on Morupisi's correspondence and Minister Molale has since refused to meet leadership of BOFEPPUSU.”  


This, the unionist continued, “depicts arrogant and unaccountable leadership that has no place in modern democracy. It can then safely be interpreted that Minister Molale 's onslaught against Trade Unions is endorsed and condoned by the BDP, for they seem to have placed much trust on him despite his dismal failure in his portfolio.”


He said the BDP has responsibility to account for Minister Eric Molale’s continued bullying of Trade Unions and disregard of the Public Service Bargaining Council. “If Botswana Democratic Party does not whip Minister Molale into the line then his conduct and actions will surely cost them as they will attract many enemies not only within civil service,” he added.   


Gov’t parties in PSBC clueless about labour relations?
Motshegwa said that in year 2010 there were 1000 Permanent Secretaries and Directors and today there are 2000. He added that this is just a burden to the expenditure because still with many Permanent Secretaries and Directors productivity has gone down.
“It is people at this scales who get large slice of the wage bill. In yester years Permanent Secretaries were powerful and principled. They could stand their ground and objectively tender their advice to Government.”


According to BOFEPPUSU DSG there are confrontational and inexperienced Permanent Secretaries who are clueless about Labour relations and contemporary trends of workplace democracy and “these are the kind of robots like Permanent Secretaries and Directors who simply carry Minister Eric Molale’s instructions without even putting their own conscience.”  


Motshegwa maintained that Molale’s role in mandate giving to those who represent the Government at the Bargaining Council continue to spell bad for the Bargaining Council and the Country. He added that his influence and role in the Public Service has brought an era of bad relations between Trade Unions and Government and therefore negatively impacting on the democracy of the Country.


“Today,” he pointed out, “it is different as those appointed to such positions are not necessarily the best in the civil service due to an entrenched culture of nepotism that reward bootlicking and sycophancy.”  The selection process and promotion process, he said, is riddled with corrupt connotations.


“We have headship of civil service that is willing to carry instructions of political masters no matter how absurd and ill-advised they are.  This is the kind of crop of Permanent Secretaries and Directors who will severely cost the BDP with their popular vote.”
On his part, BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, defended BDP and refuted claims of interference in the works of PSBC as a political party.


“I think sometimes BDP is given unfair treatment. I sit in all key decision making meetings of the party and the PSBC has never been discussed,” Ntuane defended his party. He further insisted that, “the BDP does not participate in PSBC. It’s a forum for unionists and government officials and we are not privy to their deliberations.”

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Media have a Role in Accelerating Harm Reduction Adoption

8th December 2022

African Scientists and Experts Call for the adoption of a Harm Reduction in approach in Public Health Strategies and Tobacco Control. Media have a critical role to play in accelerating Harm Reduction efforts by informing and sensitizing cigarette smokers on the availability and benefits of alternative, potentially lower risk products to cigarretes. Traditional cessation and smoking prevention norms are not the only ways that smokers who cannot or don’t’ want to quit can make healthier choices that cause less harm to themselves and those around them.

This was said during the 2nd Harm Reduction Exchange conference for African journalists held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 1st of December 2022. Speaking at the Harm Reduction Exchange Conference, Integra Africa Principal Dr. Tendai Mhizha emphasized the role that journalists and media houses should play in handling misinformation and disinformation in tobacco harm reduction discourse that is actually perpetuating the death and disease caused by people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes. “There has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects that e-cigarettes have on public health.

This has led to policies that disfavour risk reduces products and narratives that completely deny their benefits. The media have the difficult responsibility to curb the scourge of disinformation and misinformation on harm reduction just like on other socio-political stances that are prescriptive and do not uphold consumers’ right to healthier lifestyle choices,” Dr Mhizha said.

The Harm Reduction Exchange cast a spotlight on alternative ways to reduce harm among tobacco smokers. Held under the theme Harm Reduction: Making a difference in Africa, the conference focused on the progress being made through harm reduction strategies in all fields related to public health such as drug and alcohol abuse, excessive sugar consumption, skin lightening and other addictive and behavioral practices. A wide array of harm reduction strategies and initiatives that are deployed towards reducing unnecessary deaths through non-communicable diseases were presented and discussed.

On his part, Prof. Abdoul Kassé, a world renowned and awarded Oncologist and a Professor of Surgery at the Cancer Institute in Senegal, said that Harm Reduction is a powerful public A Summary of the HR Exchange 30th November  1st December 2022 health tool that has the potential to reduce cancer by 30% and should be at the centre of all public health development strategies. Harm reduction, he said, has already benefited many people in public health and is the most viable alternative in tobacco control.

It applies to areas where there is a need to reduce the harm associated with a practice or consumption of a substance that is overused in society leading to increased morbidity and mortality. “Innovative Harm Reduction initiatives will help to keep more Africans alive. Tobacco Harm Reduction initiatives, including the use of popular e-cigarettes, nicotine patches and chewing gums, have continued to generate a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and in the media. However, there is evidence that the use of potentially less harmful alternatives than cigarettes for those who are not willing or cannot give up smoking with currently approved methods may be a solution, not necessarily the best for everyone but by far better than continuous smoking.

Where cessation repeatedly fails, switching to less harmful products is expected to result in benefits for many smokers,” Prof. Abdoul Kassé said. Similarly, views were expressed by Kenya’s Dr. Vivian Manyeki who said tobacco Harm Reduction has a solid scientific and medical basis, and it has a lot of promise as a public health measure to assist millions of smokers. “Many smokers are unable, or at least unwilling, to achieve cessation through complete nicotine and tobacco abstinence. They continue smoking despite the very real and obvious adverse health consequences and against the multiple public health campaigns. Conventional smoking cessation proposals should be complemented with alternative but more realistic options through Harm Reduction,” Dr. Manyeki said.

Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smoking—the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “Nicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Across the world, there is growing interest among experts in novel approaches towards tobacco control and there is an ongoing discussion that reducing the negative effects of smoking can be also achieved by tobacco harm reduction,” Dr. Kgosi Letlape, an ophthalmologist and President of Africa Medical Association and the president of the Association of Medical Councils of Africa, said.

Tobacco cessation is a key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Abstinence from tobacco smoking is one of the primary goals for health promotion and management globally but it is unachievable in a huge amount of cases. This task remains unaccomplished despite extensive public campaigns on the health dangers of tobacco smoking. Thus, the development of novel strategies to reduce smoking is imperative. Moreover, the use of innovations in smoking products has been currently adopted by several smokers to reduce the health risks of smoking.

“The Harm Reduction approach prevents drug-related deaths and overdose fatalities and is the only way out for addicts. In the same way these alternative technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world as they reduce exposure to toxicants,” Bernice Apondi, A Policy Manager at Voices of Community Action and Leadership Kenya (VOCAL-Kenya), said.

During the Harm Reduction Exchange, journalists drawn from Southern, West and East African countries, including: Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe debated and set forth several resolutions in regards to the present and future as well as the challenges and progress made in Harm Reduction,and science-led regulation.

The Harm Reduction Exchange brought together high-level policy makers, physicians, scientists and health policy experts with media stakeholders from Africa in a lively mix of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. The key note speakers included Prof Abdoul Aziz Kasse, Ms Bernice Opondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma, Clive Bates, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Dr. Vivian Manyeki and Dr. Tendai Mhizha.

 

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Over 2 000 civil servants interdicted

6th December 2022

Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.

According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reaching WeekendPost shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.

In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.

This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publication’s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, “as you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,” she said.

She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.

Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.

Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.

Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.

“It is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,” he told WeekendPost, adding that “when a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolved”.

Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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