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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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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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