President Lt. Gen. Dr. Ian Khama’ s administration has unilaterally increased salaries of Public Servants by 3% effective 1st of April 2016. The increment comes notwithstanding that currently Botswana Federation of Public Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) has appealed an Industrial Court ruling which was in favour of Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) that barred them from sitting and continuing in the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC).
According to Public Service Management Directive No.4 of 2016 adjustment of salaries “addressees are informed that government has decided a salary increase of 3% across board. This increase of the public service includes members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), Botswana Police, Prisons Service and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC).”
Since the matter is still at the Court of Appeal and therefore has rendered the Bargaining Council dysfunctional – Council has since halted business – pending finalization of the dispute.
“It is really surprising that when the matter is still at the courts of law, the government takes this decision to increase salaries of public servants which is mandate of the PSBC,” BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari told WeekendPost.
That government has implemented the 3% without regard to court process, he said goes to show that the Executive undermines the Judiciary. “This means that the Executive is somehow pre-empting what the judiciary will implement and so this is undermining and interference to the Judiciary.”
He told this publication that by by-passing PSBC, “the government has defied both the provisions of Public Service Act on duties of PSBC, and, Justice Michael Leburu’s judgement that nobody has the right to interfere on duties of PSBC on salary and Conditions of Service.”
According to Rari, the Industrial Court judgement by Judge Tebogo Maruping has declared that salary negotiations should not continue. “PSBC should decide on salary increment and currently the courts have a case and should adjudicate on it.”
Rari insisted that right now there is nothing at PSBC because the matter is still at the courts. Until we find out if PSBC has been dismantled by the CoA that’s when this unilateral increment could have been the right decision, he said. “Let’s say PSBC has been dismantled, then that’s when government has powers to increase. In that case it’s okay, but we are not at that stage yet.”
“The question is, what if the case can restore BOFEPUSU in case CoA Judges agree with us and what is going to happen next if government awarded this 3%?” Rari asked rhetorically.
Rari remembered that it is not the first time that Khama unilaterally announced the government workers salary increment at the expense of the Bargaining Council despite Justice Leburu’s previous rulings.
“Judge Leburu ruled that Parliament has given an entity established through a Parliament Act to decide on salary increases and conditions of service. If you remember the government’s argument was that if the salary negotiations take long and the President has powers to increase salaries of workers willy-nilly, and Justice Leburu cautioned that they will be preaching statutes and rendering the Bargaining Council powerless, and there will be two centres of power,” he said.
Meanwhile the unionist concluded that the public will make their own conclusions of whether BOPEU may be conniving with the government on the case they launched at the Industrial Court which ended up delaying and, later appealed at the CoA in which a one-sided decision was taken to bypass the temporarily dysfunctional Bargaining Council.
“Public and Workers should look at the turn of events from the beginning to now. As for me I reserve my comment.”
For his part, BOPEU President, Andrew Motsamai admitted that the PSBC is currently in limbo owing to their in-fighting as unions.
“We hope that our issues will be resolved because it’s the Bargaining Council that could have negotiated instead of government,” he pointed out.
Motsamai highlighted to WeekendPost that they could be raising the issue of whether it was procedural or not for President Khama to increase government employees’ salaries only if they had a functioning PSBC.
“I cannot say if it’s legal or not, and whether it’s wrong or not as employees expect an increase even though PSBC is in limbo,” he justified. “What is it that the employer is supposed to do when the PSBC is not functional?” he asked.
BOPEU president said he hopes that going forward they will be able solve their issues to make employees happy.
When commenting on the 3% increment, Motsamai stated that it’s disappointing as the workers deserve more than that. “We are not happy with 3% but if employees have something its better – while we are sorting out our issues.”
The Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) is currently providing round-the-clock protection to a number of judicial judges, including a tribal leader, as a result of persistent death threats they have been receiving while performing their duties.
According to reports, these judges have been under protection for about five months now.
A tribal leader who claimed to have received death threats on his phone from unknown callers is reportedly one of those receiving security protection. He was also given 24-hour protection after a comprehensive evaluation by DIS since internal disagreements within the royal family have divided the tribe.
DIS spokesperson Edward Rebert stated that the DIS Act provides for personal protection when circumstances warrant it. To avoid jeopardizing the security of those who have received this protection, he was unable to reveal their identities. He highlighted that extensive assessments are performed prior to giving protection, as the directorate has limited resources and must prioritize those who are most vulnerable.
Rebert also stated that media speculation about those under protection is not necessary and potentially dangerous, as it can attract undue attention and endanger those involved. He pointed out that the Intelligence Act expressly mentions only the President, his immediate family, the Vice President, his immediate family, and former Presidents as those entitled to personal protection.
In a separate matter, some DISS agents have filed a civil suit against their employer, claiming they are entitled to shift allowances. These agents, who chose to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisals, expressed concerns about the lack of remuneration for their work in escorting individuals provided with 24-hour protection. They hinted at the possibility of a “go-slow” if their shift allowance concerns are not addressed.
They added that ensuring security for the judges under protection has been difficult since it necessitates a thorough awareness of their personal lives and routines, which some judges find unsettling. They claim that resolving the shift allowance issue is critical to ensuring that they can continue to provide effective security and fulfill their judicial responsibilities.
Renowned jurist, Justice Professor Key Dingake has punched holes into President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s appointed Commission of inquiry into the review of Botswana’s constitution.
In December 2021, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi appointed a Commission of Inquiry into the review of the country’s Constitution. The Commission was given about nine months to complete its mandate and to submit its findings to the President by the end of September 2022.
Speaking at a seminar for future leaders of the African continent, Dingake who is a Judge of the Supreme and National Courts of Papua New Guinea and the Residual Special Court of Sierra Leone branded President Masisi’s constitutional review as a dream deferred.
According to the former Botswana High Court Judge and University of Botswana academic, it is difficult to assess the extent to which civil society engaged with the process.
“What seems clear is that a significant section of civil society and political opposition considered that the process was not inclusive and transparent. The political opposition rejected the process as illegitimate. It is unclear to many people what exactly remains to be done and when exactly should Batswana expect a revised Constitution,” Dingake said.
He submitted that; “The Botswana Constitutional Review process is, in my respectful view, “a dream deferred”.
Dingake noted that a committee that was established to consult Batswana on the review of the Constitution is called The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the review of the Constitution of Botswana. He said the above name, in many respects, tells a substantial part of the story about the nature and character of the Commission.
“The review process that started in December 2021 was one of the quickest in history,” said the judge. Dingake also indicated that the process was carried out over a period of about 9 months and was not preceded by any stakeholder engagement or civic education. His view is that the absence of civic education was apparent from most of the commentary that was offered in many public platforms that the commission addressed.
“Based on the commentaries that were made, one wished that civic education preceded the process,” said Dingake adding that “Having taught Constitutional law at law school, I know for certain that if I were to walk into a law class and without offering the lecture, asked the students to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Botswana Constitution, many may find the question difficult, but the appreciation of the subject matter may improve substantially after the lecture. “
The judge asserted that; “The same is true with the Constitution review process, in which we want people to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Constitution.” The judge noted that in December 2021, President Masisi appointed a Constitutional Review Commission headed by former Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo.
Commenting on this, Dingake said the Commission was established under the Commission of Inquiries Act, which required the Commission to report directly to the President.
He said this approach, quite self-evidently, gave the impression of a partisan approach; the process could not be said by any standard to have been ‘people-driven.
“The 1966 Botswana Constitution is a colonial relic adding that “It has served us well generally, but it is no longer fit for purpose,” he said adding that; “It is overdue for far-reaching renewal. It has many weaknesses that can be instantly fixed, such as requiring it to expressly state that it is the supreme law of the land and to expressly recognize separation of powers, key components that, in my mind, constitute the unalterable basic structure of the Constitution.”
“Constitution is not gender-sensitive, and the electoral system mandated by the Constitution tends to exclude women from national political decision-making. As it is often said, no country can claim to be democratic if half or more of its population is excluded,” said Dingake.
He observed that the Constitution lacks independent institutions that support democracy, a bill of rights that recognizes all human rights, and concentrates too much power in the Presidency.
He said the Constitutional architecture is such that Parliament ends up being a rubber stamp of Executive decisions. The Constitutional review process raises opportunities for devolving power to local government units, strengthening equality and non-discrimination clauses in the Constitution, and outright outlawing many other discriminatory legal provisions and practices.
Dingake also noted that a review of the Constitution would also provide opportunities for the Botswana Government to domesticate all international, regional, and sub-regional treaties or protocols it has signed, such as the Maputo Protocol.
He said it is difficult to assess the extent to which civil society engaged with the process. What seems clear is that a significant section of civil society and political opposition considered that the process was not inclusive and transparent.
“The political opposition rejected the process as illegitimate. It is unclear to many people what exactly remains to be done and when exactly should Batswana expect a revised Constitution,” said Dingake.
KOKOTSHA – The Kokotsha community, home to some 90 children, is one that passionately believes in investing in the youth of today as future leaders of tomorrow. In support of this, and with a desire to ensure children in the village more effectively learn through play for truly brighter futures, Learn To Play is excited to launch its 10th Botswana playgroup in Kokotsha.
The playgroup was opened in partnership with the Kokotsha Village Development Committee (VDC) and the Tsabong District Council on the 11th of September 2023, in the presence of Kgosi Kudume; Chief Social & Community Development Officer, Boitumelo Pule; Deputy Council Chairman, Honourable Councillor Baitseweng; and Kokotsha Councillor Jane.
“The establishment of Kokotsha Play Group is a very appropriate and relevant cause by department of Social and Community Development in collaboration with Learn to Play, as we all know that Early Childhood Education opportunities are critical and key for children’s psychosocial development. The positive outcomes of this initiative will trickle down to improving the quality of life of not only the children enrolled, but Kokotsha as a whole,” said Tsabong District Council Deputy Council Chairman, Honourable Councillor Baitsiwe.
Tsabong District Council made the necessary renovations to an old playgroup structure on site, also supporting the playgroup with necessary resources so that the 40 children enrolled in will experience leading ECD methods and approaches, inclusive of mindful play, creativity, LEGO programmes, playful literacy, early brain development, and more. The playgroup will begin by serving 40 children in the community until the end of 2023 and increase to 80 from 2024.
“When we say, “it takes a village to raise a child”, Kokotsha is that village! From the most inspiring and supportive leadership at the Tsabong District Council – whose vision and priority towards early childhood development brings us here today, to the leadership within Kokotsha with the most committed civil servants, and our dedicated Mamapreneurs – we have truly learnt the meaning behind that phrase,” said Learn To Play Founder and CEO, Priyanka Handa-Ram. “Kokotsha stands as a model not just for our other community playgroups across the country, but for the entire African continent on how policies, programmes and communities need to devote time, effort and resources to nurturing our children. Working with the Tsabong District Council and the leadership in Kokotsha to be ready for opening, including renovating this incredible playgroup centre, has been so smooth and efficient – all testament to the Council’s commitment to bring play-based learning to Kokotsha, and indeed the district at large. Effective partnerships with local governments and community leadership are key to forging a path to universal access to high quality early childhood development in our beautiful Botswana.”
Three mamapreneurs identified by the Kokotsha community were trained in Gaborone for two weeks in April this year on ECD essentials, managing and facilitating daily playgroups, effective monitoring and evaluation, school readiness, digital literacy, child protection, first aid and more. These phenomenal women are now part of the 35 Mamapreneur-strong network of change-agents across Botswana within the Learn To Play ecosystem.
ECD plays a crucial role in a child’s overall development, setting the foundation for their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Research has consistently shown that quality of early education has a long-lasting impact on a child’s academic performance, social skills, and overall wellbeing and that children who attend high-quality early childhood education programmes are more likely to perform better academically and have higher graduation rates. These programmes help children develop empathy, self-regulation, and positive relationships with peers and adults. These very impacts are being measurably reported across Learn To Play playgroups in Botswana, and the impact is clear for all to see.
Learn To Play now operates play-based learning playgroups in 6 districts across Botswana, and gaging and benefitting over 450 children in Pandamatenga, Bere, Kokotsha, Mabele, Nata, Bontleng, Gopong, Kavimba, Kacgae, and Dukwi, working to create a sustainable framework for development. Learn To Play is Inspired by Play and Informed by African communities, just like that of Kokotsha.