Trade Dispute bill: Potential draconian law
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) back bencher, Billy Buti
Trade Disputes Bill, which is currently being debated in Parliament has raffled feathers in the house with some Members of Parliament (MPs) including some in the ruling Party labelling it as unwise and condemned it as a draconian law.
The Leader of opposition, Duma Boko, who is a lawyer by training specifically alerted the house that if the bill is allowed to pass in its current form, then many employees in the civil service will be forced to work until retirement age because section 48 of the bill makes it a criminal offence for any government employee working in the essential service cadre to resign from work.
“An employee in the essential services category is entitled to resign any time and when they resign because they are unhappy as a group, large or small because they are unhappy with what the employer is doing and you say in terms of Section 48 that is a breach of the employment contract, that exposes them to criminal liability, that is in fact palpably wrong,” he said.
Boko said, declaration of any activity as an essential service has the drastic implication of taking away completely the one and only weapon available to an employee in a fair and democratic bargaining process, which is the ability to withdraw or withhold, either temporarily or permanently their service, in order to exact concessions from the other party, being the employer.
“Section 47 takes away completely in respect of the so-called essential service the right to strike. My submission is that, that approach is wrong,” he said.
“When the normal forms of engagement have failed, sometimes nations go to war because war is the last resort. The strike is not the first port of call, it is always the last resort. It is a weapon that is implored or invoked when one of the parties especially the employer is intransigent, and does not want to engage and engage openly and meaningfully.”
Boko also contend that as far as Public Service Act is concerned, government would then be compelled to attach monetary factors to those who will be put under the essential service category. He said this is because public service employees under the essential services would be exposed to a different set of governing regulations than the other.
The bill which was tabled by the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin seeks amongst others, to make a number of civil professions essential services including teachers. But Boko maintains that the bill is wrong on the law because it does not only contradicts the country’s constitution, but “it is not going to be implementable! You would have serious difficulties implementing that provision. It would be unconstitutional because it would amount to forcing a person who would otherwise serve his resignation letter to continue to work for fear that they will be criminally liable.”
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) back benchers, Polson Majaga and Billy Buti have joined opposition Members of Parliament in rejecting the bill because they are not “comfortable with it.”
Debating the bill this week, Nata-Gweta MP, Majaga said while the bill could have had good intentions, he is uncomfortable supporting it.
“I feel uncomfortable to support this Bill because of the reasons I have. That is my nature. If I do not agree with something, I feel compelled to just say outright my reasons to be heard,” he said.
Majaga has stated that he does not support teaching being part of the essential service. His reason was that the way the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu had crafted the bill, will ultimately result in every civil servant being essential service.
“I am very much aware of the importance of teachers and their contribution to this country after 50 years of independence. They produced engineers and pilots who are contributing to this country as we can see but I would like us to be visionary,” he said.
“This country has democratic procedures that allow Batswana to go on strike. I really agree with that notion because it is a way of showing their disgruntlement with the government of the day.”
Majaga said minister Batshu risks creating a bad legacy for himself with a bad bill, which does not address the real problems faced by the country with regards to labour issues. Majaga said issues like shortage of Industrial courts should be of major concern if indeed government wants to address labour concerns.
“Botswana is one country that has many cases of employer-employee before courts of law, but we have a small population. One would wonder what causes this, and it is this very situation that I am talking about and what we can do to avoid this problem,” he said.
“That is why I am saying we should amend these laws with sober minds to avoid a situation where people in future will question the Minister who was responsible for the amendments. You are a good friend and my neighbour; I do not want that to happen to you because I know your capabilities.”
Debating the bill, MP for Francistown East, Buti Billy said it was unnecessarily for government to include teachers, immigration, Botswana Unified Revenue Service and diamond sorting as part of essential services.
“We have been complaining about the issue of go-slow. It is now going to be even worse because employees will not be happy and we will not get the service delivery that we desire,” he contended.
“They [BDP MPs] do not agree with me, but this is my stand and my constituency stand. So if someone does not agree with me, they have the right to view their opinions, they have the right to present the way they want.”
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”