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BOFEPUSU sorting its bargaining problem in court

Dispute of interest Botswana Public Employees Union’s (BOPEU) secession from the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has rocked the start of Public Service Bargaining Council’s (PSBC) 2016/2017 wage talks.

BOFEPUSU, on Monday this week hauled the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) before the Industrial court on an urgent application seeking relief, following the collapse of bargaining council’s 17 December 2015 talks and its subsequent indefinite adjournment.

BOFEPUSU states in court papers that after it submitted its proposal for wage increment, a meeting was called on the 17th of December where procedures applicable to the wage negotiations were to be discussed. At the meeting DPSM proxies contended whether the Public Service Bargaining Council was properly constituted in light of BOPEU’s withdrawal from the trade union federation.

The DPSM proxies further stated and put forward a precondition that they can only discuss procedures applicable to the 2016/2017 wage negotiations so long as the issues of whether or not the Council was properly constituted had been exhaustively discussed and a way forward on the issue agreed on. On the parallel vein BOFEPUSU could not concede ground outlining details that the BOPEU factor could not be advanced as a precondition for the start of wage talks because it was never in the meeting’s agenda.

BOFEPUSU chief executive and union old hand, Johnson Motshwarakgole argues in court papers that BOPEU’s decision to terminate its affiliation to BOFEPUSU did not take away BOFEPUSU’s right to bargain with DPSM because the ‘acting jointly arrangement’ which BOFEPUSU invoked to get admission into the bargaining council with BOPEU has not been terminated.

He continues that even if BOPEU had pulled out of the ‘acting jointly arrangement’, BOFEPUSU will still have a right to continue bargaining on behalf of their members because they still represent at least two-thirds of the total workforce well in excess of the constitutionally required one-third.

Motshwarakgole continues that “termination of membership to a Council follows a process and it is not automatic and must follow the process laid down in order for it to be effective. Until such time as that process has been followed the Council remains properly constituted.”

He further observed that the imposition of an unreasonable precondition constitutes a form of bad faith bargaining and reiterated that BOFEPUSU has a right to bargain in good faith with DPSM; a right enshrined in the Public Service Act No.30 of 2008, Trade Unions and Employers’ Organisation Act, the constitution of the Bargaining Council as well as the Procedures for Meetings and Negotiations of 2015.

Motshwarakgole further warned in court documents that, “the right to engage with DPSM in good faith wage talks will be rendered hollow if its conduct is to continue unabated and that DPSM’s unfair precondition effectively amounts to a refusal to negotiate as well as adding that the prejudice BOFEPUSU stands to endure as a result of DPSM’s unlawful conduct will be so immense that it cannot be quantified.”

In a strongly worded responding affidavit, the  DPSM Director, Ruth Maphorisa, argues that it only was reasonable that DPSM requested the inclusion of the agenda tagged ‘Parties to the Council’, relating to BOPEU’s withdrawal from the trade union federation because her department had received 2 letters from BOPEU indicating its disaffiliation from BOFEPUSU with immediate effect. Maphorisa also accused BOFEPUSU of, “ventilating the ‘Parties to the Council’ agenda through a court application whilst excluding BOPEU.” She continued that, “It is curious to note that the issue of ‘Parties to the Council’ revolves around the actions of BOPEU and yet it is not party to the proceedings either as an applicant or as a respondent.”

However DPSM’s counsel Tefo Bogosi reasoned that BOFEPUSU had waived its right to negotiate and it ceased to exist on the 31st of October 2015 as per the collectively taken PSBC (Bargaining Council) resolution number 3 of April 2015 by submitting wage proposal to the PSBC on the 23rd of November; nearly a month after the agreed period which states that wage negotiations should be executed year after year in the months of October and September so as to align them to the national budget process.

Bogosi also continued to argue that BOFEPUSU’s court argument is a dispute of interest and not a dispute of right-a prospect that could force it to take the path of industrial action to extract concession.

However presiding Justice Diratsagae Molomo advised Bogosi to deal with facts and not technicalities of law. Justice Molomo also advised the sparring PSBC partners in the day-long trial to be pragmatic and keep in thought the enormity of the case with possibly 90 000 thousand civil servants caught in the crosshairs.

Molomo remarked that, “We should avert cases like that happened in 2011 and we (the courts) should not be seen as a place where things like what happened are made easy to reoccur.” Diratsagae advised.

The parties opted for a settlement agreement that will see a verification exercise of the federation’s collective membership being carried out on the 11th January to establish whether BOFEPUSU meets the one-third threshold to negotiate on behalf of the union membership.

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Bangwato regent speaks ‘respect for Dikgosi’

23rd May 2022
Bangwato

Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.

Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.

Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.

One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution

Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.”  Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.

She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age.  Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.

Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.

Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.

For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.

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Parliament unveils major shake-up plans & reforms

23rd May 2022
Parliament

Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.

The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare.
Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.

According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned.  It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.

“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said.  Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.

The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.

The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.

The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.”  The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana.  It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.

“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.

Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.

“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversification of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly.  It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).

“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.

Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.

The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.

“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said.  The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.

The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.

“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).

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Salbany, Bareetsi threaten to sue DIS

23rd May 2022
Salbany Bareetsi

Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.

After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.

They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.

“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.

They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”

They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.

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