The President of the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), Andrew Motsamai has disposed a loaded affidavit in which he dismisses the legality of the National Amalgamated Local Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union aka Manual Workers Union; he also quashes Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU)’s call for an expedited appeal to the ruling of the Industrial Court which set aside public servants salary negotiations.
Before pouring cold water over BOFEPUSU’s request that the appeal be heard on urgency basis, Motsamai directed his thoughts at Manual Workers Union cited as 4th responded in the court papers: “I dispute that the 4th applicant is a trade union duly registered and recognised in terms of the Trade Unions and Employers Organisations’ Act and the Trade Disputes Act, as alleged or at all. I therefore strictly put the 4th applicant to the proof that it is a registered and recognised trade union and I hereby call upon the 4th applicant, in reply, to produce before Court the necessary documentation in proof of its registration and recognition in terms of the Trade Unions and Employers Organisation Act and the Trade Disputes Act, as alleged in the founding affidavit.”
Motsamai further writes, “I must point out that at the time that the application was launched before the Industrial Court, it was assumed by all parties involved , including the 1st respondent, that the 4th applicant was duly registered and recognised trade union. In fact all past dealings involving the collective bargaining process within the public service, it has always been taken that the 4th applicant was a registered and recognised trade union.”
According to the BOPEU President, it has only recently come to the attention of the 1st respondent that the 4th applicant has not been registered nor is it recognised by the employer. Motsamai says his union therefore avers that the 4th respondent lacks necessary locus standi in judicio to have participated in this matter and that it cannot therefore continue to participate in the matter.
In his replying affidavit Motsamai points out that there is no provision for the hearing of Appeals on urgency before the Court of Appeal. He also notes that the record of proceedings for the purposes of Appeal have not been settled yet. He says the applicants should have availed the copy of the Industrial Court Judgement to their records because it is their obligation to place all relevant materials before court for the court to arrive at a judicious conclusion.
Responding to why the matter was urgent before the Industrial Court, Motsamai posits that, “the matter before the Industrial Court was urgent because of the fact that it affects the negotiation of the terms and conditions of service of multitudes of civil servants, a process which the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) has by its resolution No. 2 of 2016, resolved that it should continue within 5 days from the 18 February 2016.
The 1st respondent had then argued that it had a right to participate in that negotiation process and that pending the decision of the court on the matter, the negotiation process be suspended. The Industrial Court had then suspended the negotiation process and the dates that the PSBC had set for the negotiation have since passed. The applicants do not state in their founding affidavit that the negotiations have a new date,” writes Motsamai.
Motsamai further argues that the Industrial Court has provided for a substantial recourse in this matter by directing that the parties attend a mediation process within 30 days.
“The applicants do not allege in their founding affidavit that the mediation, if attended, will not resolve the matter let alone that the mediation would not be concluded within a sufficient period to enable the salary negotiation process to be held and closed.”
According to the BOPEU president, BOFEPUSU has failed to demonstrate that if the public service salary increments are made after the 01st April, such will in any way cause irreparable harm to the public servants. “I aver that salary back-pays can always be made, as has been the case in other similar instances in the past. I aver that the fact that public servants are affected by the pending negotiation process does not on its own automatically render appeal urgent. The applicants still have to demonstrate exceptional circumstances and irreparable harm,” Motsamai contends.
ON SALARY NEGOTIATIONS
BOPEU president further states that the interdict is a necessary evil, to ensure that there is inclusiveness in terms of representation of public servants at the Bargaining Council. The sanctity and legality of the Bargaining Council participation ought to be secured first before any earnest bargaining process can ensue. He is convinced that mediation as directed by the Industrial Court could help secure substantial relief to the “crisis” which “they allege presently exists within the public service”.
Motsamai says the salary negotiations as the position stands now have been interdicted by the Court and “I contend that upon resuming and a figure arrived at, the implementation if made after 1st April 2016, shall be retrospectively effected.”
Further Motsamai blames BOFEPUSU for the delay in salary negotiations. He says they failed to submit their proposal on salary negotiations in time, such that a bargaining process which ought to have commenced in or around September/October 2015 was only started in 2016. He says the employer party to the PSBC has not even delivered its counter proposal to the proposal made by the trade unions. He argues that the founding affidavit provided by BOFEPUSU does not say whether Employer party will provide the counter proposal on time and the bargaining process concluded before 01 April 2016 if the appeal is expedited. Motsamai says this makes the argument of concluding the case before 01 April immaterial. He concludes that the applicants in BOFEPUSU have failed to demonstrate exceptional circumstances that should compel the Appeal Court to allow them to jump the queue.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.