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BCA staff want 35% salary rise

Minister of Agriculture Ralotsia and other Members of the Parliament

Following the University of Botswana (UB)’s staff salary boost earlier this year in April, their equivalents at Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA) which is an associate institution of UB, this week withheld release of students’ results for this academic year until their salary variations have been addressed.

WeekendPost has established that everything has now come to a standstill at the solitary Agricultural College as after the lecturers had wrapped up marking the students’ examinations and, at a drop of a hat, executed an elongated resolution that was taken aback – that they be halted.

The suppression of the students’ grades which were in line for publication on Monday emanates from the Governing Council’s pronouncement in June this year that “BCA staff members be reimbursed the 35% that comprise of 20% transport allowance and 15% housing allowance.”

According to the memo from the College’s Services Manager titled, ‘Decisions of the Governing Council’ and passed to this publication, the Governing Council resolved that the remuneration cut across the board of staff basic salaries and to be back dated with effect from 1st April 2015.

The influential pivotal BCA governing council consists of among others, former Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary Dr. Marcus C. Chimbombi; UB Vice Chancellor Prof. Thabo T.  Fako; Mrs. C. Koketso; Prof. M. Modisi; Mr O. Mphahudi; Dr. C. Sydes; Prof. H.K. Siphambe; Dr. H.K. Sigwele; Mr D. Ratsatsi; Prof. E B  Khonga; Dr N. Batisani; Dr. U. Batlang; Mr. E Mbambo; and Dr. R G  Chabo.

This publication has gathered that subsequent to the Governing Council meeting of 22 June 2015 which moved to approve the 35% windfall, the staff members on the other hand also decided that they will reserve the discharge of students’ results if the Council resolution is not implemented.

According to the petition, delivered to the Council, which Weekend Post is also in possession of; staff members warned that “failure to effect the Governing Council's decision of paying the overdue allowances will precipitate dire consequences including industrial action that will result in withholding this semester's examinations results and even withholding our core services to the college.”

The concerned group representing the BCA staff members insisted in the petition that in spite of the positive decision, seven months have elapsed without implementation of the decision which they say is a flagrant violation of the employment act of the country.

The BCA staff has maintained that subsequent failure by BCA management who are caught between the devil and deep blue sea, to implement the Governing Council's decision has exhausted BCA staff member's patience which they have exercised over this lengthy period.  

Consequently, the management was urged at the eleventh hour to “exercise due diligence towards this sensitive matter that has greatly impacted our economic status to the lowest level being the lowest paid staff in an academic institution in Botswana.”

It is extensively believed that the new emolument structure will be unswerving and consistent with that of their UB counterparts.

Earlier this year, former Assistant Minister of Education Kgotla Autlwetse had informed parliament that UB pays average lecturers between P16,975 and P29,164 per month, while Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST)  pays theirs P32,060 monthly.

“The University of Botswana pays senior lecturers between P25,546 to P32,525 per month, while BIUST pays their senior lecturers P39,695 per month,” Autlwetse had told parliament then. He also informed the national assembly that associate professors at UB get remunerated between P30,936 and P35,532 per month, while BIUST pays them P49,969.

Reports indicate that law makers expressed deep reservations about UB and BIUST salary disparities and there was a general concern that only the BIUST academic staff was entitled to lucrative allowances including the housing allowance at the expense of their colleagues of the same ranking at UB.

As a result, UB was compensated with 35% enhancement allowances to their salaries in lieu of calming them down. As a result, the remunerations ended up being put at par with their BIUST counterparts.

In the meantime BCA, racing against the clock, did not want to be asleep at the switch and advocated for such developments as well which the governing council approved, however increments at that college were never implemented.

“So you see when UB applied these salary growths, it was supposed to be automatic and that they also apply to BCA lectures,” an immaculate source who sits on the board at the College (BCA) highlighted.

He said it is a bitter pill to swallow that staff members have written to the school board, Permanent Secretary, and Ministry to address the issue but almost a year on it’s still pending while adding that the withholding of students’ results may upset registration into the next academic year.

Recently, Minister of Education Dr. Unity Dow was also forced to intervene at the College following students’ demonstrations for what they termed “unconducive learning environment.”

Meanwhile Minister of Agriculture, Patrick Ralotsia told this publication on the sidelines of parliamentary proceedings on Wednesday that he is aware that staff members at BCA have not been paid their dues yet. He asserted, however that he was expecting to meet with BCA management to try to calm the waters and eventually resolve the matter which has clearly gotten out of hand.

Acting BCA Principal Dr. Mataba Tapela had not responded to e-mail inquiries on the issue at the time of going to press.

It is understood that the management has been caught off guard as they had shifted focus to the impending transformation of the institution from a College to fully fledged University, along the way forgetting other pressing subjects.

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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