BFTU, BOFEPUSU fight over national labour centre status
The composition of union delegates who represented Botswana at the International Labour Conference (ILC) held at Geneva, Switzerland last week has led to further rifts between the two rival unions.
In addition to Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU), Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) was also recently recognised as a national labour centre.
The rivalry playing out between the two union federations has however taken its toll in their participation in the tripartite arrangement.
At the ILC, BFTU was engaged as a delegate while BOFEPUSU was involved by government as a companion of BFTU as well as an advisor to government.
As per the tripartite method, the delegation to the ILC should be comprised of two government delegates, one worker delegate and one employer.
In Botswana workers have all along been represented by BFTU as the National Labour Centre while employers by Business Botswana.
BFTU, which was previously the only recognised national labour centre sitting at the ILC categorically stated this week that they are not pleased with government’s decision of including BOFEPUSU in the Geneva expedition.
BFTU Secretary General Gadzani Mhotsha spelled out his concerns to a pack of journalists on Tuesday at Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) offices.
“We later learnt that the office of the Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs has asked BOFEPUSU to submit names of their delegation directly to their office,” Mhotsha laid down his displeasure with the government.
He continued: “we further learnt that government has decided to sponsor one advisor from BOFEPUSU to accompany BFTU. It should be noted that such an advisor was never communicated to BFTU either by government or BOFEPUSU.”
He alluded to the fact that during the whole conference they never got to know or interact with the said advisor or his/her companions.
As such, the BFTU SG noted that the conduct of Botswana government was also contrary to the International Labour Organisations (ILO) procedures and that while BFTU desired to object to the composition of the Botswana delegation, it could not do so before objections could be closed due to logistical issues.
“We want to put it on record that what the government did was to encourage division of workers and thus weaken their strength,” Mhotsha pointed out.
He explained that: “BFTU is not against BOFEPUSU attending the ILC, but government should not be deciding for us who should go to the ILC as a titular delegate and who should be an advisor. It is for this reason that we wrote directly to BOFEPUSU to submit their delegates to BFTU so that we rightly receive them as our advisors.”
According to Mhotsha, their bone of contention is borne from the fact that ILO recognises only one National Labour Centre – which is thus far BFTU, and by trying to bypass that, government is in violation of the principles of ILO.
“If we don’t settle this issue by June, we will take it up with ILO,” he declared.
BFTU president Bohitlhetswe Lentswe also reiterated that currently ILO recognises BFTU as the only party representing unions to go to ILO.
“Government should go back and audit and declare whether BFTU is still the most representative to be named a labour centre,” he highlighted.
While he acknowledged that BOFEPUSU was a mere advisor at the ILC, Lentswe cautioned that “we don’t appoint advisors for government and they should not choose for us.
We failed to go there as a team because of this fracas.”
He clarified that: “we are not saying BOFEPUSU should not go there, but if BFTU remains a labour centre it should appoint their advisors.” He however conceded that in other countries there are more than one labour centres.
MLHA long recognised BOFEPUSU
BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari has however elucidated that his union was long recognised as another labour centre since August last year.
“I don’t know why the issue confuses a lot of people. As BOFEPUSU we are now a labour centre. Therefore that means there are two labour centres in Botswana, that is BOFEPUSU and BFTU,” he explained.
“With that in mind, we have a right that we can even fight for in court – to sit in the tripartite structure,” Rari told WeekendPost in a separate interview.
According to a letter dated 18 August 2015 from Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs Pearl Ramokoka nee-Matome, which this publication has seen, the government resolved to recognise BOFEPUSU.
The MLHA PS said she is aware that BFTU has been the only organisation (federation) recognised to be representing all workers in the country.
“It is common cause that with the conclusion of court cases involving the registration of BOFEPUSU as a Federation of trade unions, it should also be recognised as a role player in our labour relations system,” the PS stated in the correspondence to BOFEPUSU.
The PS also emphasised that it is a legal requirement in terms of part XVI of the Employment Act 47:01 that when the minister considers it necessary to fix or adjust minimum wages, he shall refer the issues to the Minimum Wages Advisory Board for investigation and advice (which BFTU/BOFEPUSU should sit in).
Similarly, she said, part XVII of the same Act requires the minister to, where it is reasonably practical to do so, consult the Labour Advisory Board (which is inclusive of either BFTU/BOFEPUSU) before he introduces any Bill relating to employment into the National Assembly or before making any subsidiary legislation relating to employment.
Other consultative structures of arrangements that require the participation of workers’ and employers’ representatives (any national labour centre) include consultation on reports to the ILO, participation in the Decent Work Country Programme Steering Committee, ILC, Sectorial High Level Consultative Meetings and other engagements which require the input of workers and employers.
On another letter dated 13 May 2016 the PS reiterated that “you will recall that this ministry wrote to BOFEPUSU and BFTU on 18th August 2015 about the representation of workers in the social dialogue structures.”
In the correspondence she said they requested the two federations to work out an arrangement that would facilitate the representation of workers in meetings and activities that require workers’ participation.
“In view of the fact that this matter is still pending, we have decided that this year we will allow a delegate from BFTU to represent workers to the ILC. But this delegate shall be accompanied by an advisor from BOFEPUSU, and the expenses for the participation of the workers’ delegate and advisor shall be paid by government.”
Meanwhile, in November last year, Rari wrote to BFTU requesting for a meeting to discuss issues of workers’ representation in Social Dialogue structures.
“This comes in wake of BOFEPUSU being recognized and accorded the status of a Labour Centre in the country hence enjoying the right of representing workers in social Dialogue structures,” Rari had highlighted to BFTU then.
He maintained: “if such a meeting proceeds without us being represented, our constituents are bound to suffer owing to non – representation.” However, BFTU responded on 18th November indicating that they cannot meet BOFEPUSU on account that they had written to MLHA seeking further clarification on the matter.
BOPEU is also caught up in a court feud with BOFEPUSU regarding who should sit in the Public Service Bargaining Council – following the disaffiliation of BOPEU from the PSBC. BOPEU is currently carrying out due diligence on BFTU to weigh out options of whether to reach a final decision to affiliate.
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The loan is said to have been developed through a partnership driven by a deep customer focus with the key objectives of access, convenience and flexible financial support to customers of Letshego Botswana and Mascom through instantly disbursed short-term loans from P50 to P1 500 over the period of one month.
Letshego’s head of transformation, Molebogeng Malomo highlighted that working through agile methodologies, the partnership was able to develop and be released as what they call a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or solution. “In keeping up with the spirit of design thinking and agile methodologies, the experiences and viewpoints of both Letshego Botswana and Mascom’s customers will be valuable to inform further enhancements to the Mascom MyZaka solution,” he said.
He further noted that the partnership and the development of the MyZaka instant loan will provide both the organizations to diversify their offering and customer base, while also offering the customer more choices and flexibility to initiate and be in control of their loan requests through the self-service mobile based application.
Mascom’s Chief Executive Officer, Dzene Makhwade-Seboni also alluded that their origins, priorities and initiatives are firmly rooted in Botswana and in the success of all Batswana, and that their strategy and intent is supported by embracing innovative problem-solving.
“The speed with which Letshego has grown over the years gives us confidence that we have partnered with the right service provider. Their expertise and most of all, innovation, a value we both share, will be beneficial to MyZaka Mobile Money for growth and for the convenience of our subscribers,” she concluded.
DCEC granted warrant to arrest Khama twins
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has been granted permission to apprehend the former Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, and his twin brother Anthony Khama.
Information gathered by this publication suggests that the DCEC is actively searching for the Khama brothers, this is in connection with events that transpired whilst Tshekedi was Minister of Environment. The duo is currently in exile in South Africa together with their elder brother, and former President Lt Gen Ian Khama.
Approximately two weeks ago, the corruption-busting agency discreetly filed for an arrest warrant that was approved by the Broadhurst Magistrate Court for the two to be taken into custody, according to a highly placed source within the government enclave.
DCEC is also said to have filed an affidavit signed by a high-ranking officer known to this publication. Reports indicate that after being presented with details of the case, the Broadhurst magistrate issued the agency an arrest warrant.
It is also believed that the agency has been conducting extensive investigations into the supposed suspects for quite some time. Furthermore, Weekend Post has it on good word that the DCEC has been looking for methods to summon the two for questioning but has been unsuccessful.
According to unconfirmed reports, DCEC met with attorney Victor Ramalepa, who refused to accept the summons, saying that he is not their attorney. Furthermore, it is believed that DCEC has enlisted the assistance of the Botswana Police Service (BPS) in flagging the suspects’ names in the International Criminal Police Organisation INTERPOL.
Responding to WeekendPost enquiries, DCEC spokesperson Lentswe Motshoganetsi said, “I am not in good position to confirm or deny the allegation,” adding that such allegations may fall within the operational purview of the DCEC.
When contacted for comment, Ramalepa briefly stated that he is unaware of the purported arrest warrant. “I know nothing about the warrant and I haven’t been served with anything,” he said.
Meanwhile, former president Lt Gen Ian Khama recently issued a statement stating that DIS is intensifying the harassment and intimidation of him, family, friends and office employees.
“It is reprehensible for state officials and agencies to abuse government resources to terrorise their own citizens for personal gain,” said the former president in a statement.
He also stated that his brother TK’s staff and security were ordered to falsely implicate him. “Their desperate tactics will never work, it only serves to motivate me more to pursue regime change and free Botswana from tyranny,” he said
This comes after the corruption busting agency wants to interview the alleged suspects as they are still hiding in South Africa since last year.
Despite the hostility between government and Khama family going unabated, last month, Masisi extended an olive branch to Khama in political rally, indicating that he hopes the two of them settle their differences, of which the former responded by welcoming the gesture.
Khama further said his brother, Tshekedi, will facilitate the reconciliation of his behalf. Many have indicated that Masisi did not say what he said in good faith, and was only scoring political brownies since he was in Khama’s territory in Shoshong.
DCEC’s Tshepo Pilane still has his mojo
Tshepo Pilane silenced his critics after being named the head of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) in May of last year and served his opponents humble pie. Many believed he would only last for a month, but almost a year later, he is still standing.
Pilane, a trained soldier whose appointment surprised both the general public and some officers within the DCEC walls, has never glanced back in his duty to steer the DCEC ship forward.
It is alleged that immediately after his appointment the man embarked on a nation-wide trip touring the DCEC offices across the country in order to confirm and reaffirm the DCEC’s mandate. Sources from inside the DCEC claim that Pilane won the hearts of many DCEC employees due to his humility and plain message; “people at the top of the DCEC will come and go but the mandate of the DCEC remains relevant and unchanged.”
Pilane was appointed the Acting DCEC Director General at a time when the organisation was undergoing turbulence through court proceedings in which the suspended Director General Tymon Katlholo had interdicted the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing the DCEC premises. At the time, the DIS had raided the DCEC offices in the absence of Katlholo claiming to be looking for high profile corruption cases allegedly held by Katlholo.
At the time Pilane was Head of the DCEC Intelligence Division holding the position of Senior Assistant Director General reporting directly to the Deputy Director General Operations Ms Priscilla Israel. Contrary to his detractors, Pilane who is a reserved and humble person by nature won the support and backing of many DCEC officers due to his unassuming nature.
In a recent questionnaire sent to the DCEC regarding Pilane’s term in office, the DCEC was resolute on its commitment towards the fight against corruption. When quizzed on allegations of rife corruption since he took over, Pilane through his Public Relations (PR) office stated that the corruption landscape in Botswana remains unchanged as the DCEC continues to receive reports on allegations of corruption with sectors such as procurement (tenders and supplies), Transport (licensing and certificates), and land (dubious allocation and collusion) still leading issues reported. This trend has been consistence in the DCEC database for more than 10 years.
When further quizzed on accusations that suggest that due to the infighting at the agency, particularly at the top management, Investigations of cases has dropped significantly the DCEC claimed ignorance to the matter, stating that they are not aware of any “infights” at the DCEC “at the top management”, further stating that, investigations of cases has increased significantly, contrary to the allegations raised. “The DCEC is currently seeking new ways of expediting the investigations in order to fast track its enforcement role,” said the DCEC Head of Public Relations Lentswe Motshoganetsi. He further stated that the DCEC is in pursuit of high profile cases involving money and assets valued over P900 million. Three companies are involved in the scandal and two cases have already been committed to court while on one, investigations are about to be completed.
When WeekendPost inquired about Pilane’s roadmap, the DCEC stated that in the past, anti-corruption interventions were reactive, particularly in dealing with national projects that involve large sums of money. It was further started that in most instances investigating such matters takes a long time and in most instances, the money looted form Government in never recovered. As a result, the DCEC has taken a deliberate stance to attach its officers from the Corruption Prevention Division to be part of the implementation of these projects before, during, and after implementation.
The DCEC cited the Economic Stimulus Programme which, although meant to grow the economy and uplift Batswana from poverty, yielded incidents of corruption and poor workmanship. To date, the DCEC is still grappling with cases as some projects were not done, or were completed with defects beyond repair. Currently the DCEC is involved at the Ministry of Education conducting project risk management in the Multiple Path Ways Program at Moeng College and Maun Senior School. This intervention will spread to other sectors of the economy as part of the DCEC’s corruption prevention strategy.
Of recent, the DCEC has been in the media for all the wrong reasons following leakage of high profile cases and allegations claiming that the executive management is at war with each other more particularly with some within the agency harbouring ambitions to dethrone Pilane from the Directorship.
Although the infighting was denied by Pilane’s Office, he acknowledged that leakage of information is a problem across Government and stated that it is a pain at the DCEC. He however stated that Staff has been cautioned against leakage of investigation information and that they have roped in the Botswana Police to assist in investigating incidents of leakage. He further stated that they have increased continuous vetting and lifestyle audits for DCEC employees in order to enforce discipline.
Pilane’s term comes to an end in May 2023 after serving the DCEC for a year on acting basis. It will be in the public interest to see who will be given the baton to continue the anti-corruption journey if Pilane’s contract is not renewed. The DCEC has seen arrival and departure of Director Generals having alternated the top seat five times in less than seven years.