Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has proposed a 13.5% salary increment for civil servants under its mandate in the 2016/2017 salary negotiations.
In its 2016 salary negotiation proposal submitted to the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) on the 23rd of November 2015, BOFEPUSU states that the increment which will thrust government’s wage bill up to P1.6 billion is affordable as inflation since 2009 has increased by an astounding 43.7% with an 8% annual upsurge.
BOFEPUSU salary increment proposal in possession of WeekendPost also states that at the same time civil servants salaries were adjusted by a total 16% with the last increments done in 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively with 10 and 3% each and without any increment in 2009 due to constraints associated with the financial down turn as well as in 2013 due protracted talks at PSBC.
BOFEPUSU says that it has calculated the wage bill of employees falling under the Public Service Act of 2008(PSA) to top the staggering figure of P12 billion and therefore the 13.5% increment will result in a wage bill pegged at P1,6 billion.
It also continues that the negotiations should be done to benefit only employee’s governed by the Public Service Act (2008) and that it wants its increment negotiations to exclude Members of Parliament, Councilors, and Dikgosi since they got up to 40% salary increments, atop a 6% hike that was negotiated for public service employees during the 2015/2016 salary negotiations.
Warns against Economic Stimulus Program (ESP)
BOFEPUSU also gives an ominous warning to government on going against the grain of counsel from Western think tanks, including Brookings Institute which it terms one of the best think tanks in the world as well as the National Development Plan 9(NDP 9) on its careening laser focus on infrastructural development. BOFEPUSU states, “It has been reported that Botswana is one of 10 Sub-Saharan countries that has surpassed the threshold for the domestic bankrolling of infrastructure. The acceptable limit is 5-6% while Botswana earmarks 7.1-8% of its GDP.”
BOFEPUSU also states that it is aware that government intends to draw funds from its foreign reserves to bankroll infrastructure development despite several warnings on its over-commitment on infrastructural development at the negligence of social and economic needs of households.
BOFEPUSU also continues to justify the 13.5% increment by citing that the economic stimulus program which it says will result in money being injected into the economy and it believes that the employees will not be forgotten considering their appreciation of the global financial tumult during the 2008 period and enduring long periods without any increment.
The powerful trade union bloc also says that; the fact that inflation is presently at its lowest in decades, having fallen below Bank of Botswana’s long term objective of 3-6% this actually means that real wages are being left at risk and therefore a significant salary increment will be a much needed shot in the arm for households and consequently stimulate small business sector growth. BOFEPUSU also discouraged government against its intended reduction of the wage bill through ways that will not see protection of real wages as it is already a dispiriting factor for civil service employees. It goes on to state that it is alive to the fact that its wage increment proposition coincides with a time when there is need for fiscal restraint. It continues to warn that government’s large wage bill is related to the fact that government is a major employer as there is inadequate new employment in the private sector before proposing that efforts to reduce wage bill may not always be achieved by way of freezing wages of workers already employed.
Calls for scaling back spending on Security, Defense and Social Safety Nets
BOFEPUSU further proposes that in terms of overall expenditure a reduction in non-productive expenditure should be put in place such as those used in social safety nets. It goes on to say that to achieve these goals other areas to give less priority in less spending are Security and Defense and that efforts should be put in place to increase employment creation as a sustainable way of poverty eradication, rather that increasing spending on unproductive activities that contribute to a culture of dependency.
BOFEPUSU’s approximations also indicate that the country is on a track of pre-economic crisis growth levels and that government’s efforts to reduce the economy’s dependency on mining is bearing fruit. It also states that government has to bear in mind the escalation in prices of utilities such as electricity, medical aid, postal charges as well as residential rentals all which have recently rocketed skywards as well as the country’s economic system as an unregulated open market economy, exacerbates the problem as price increments for business will always transfer costs to consumers.
Introduction of 10% housing allowance for all civil servants
BOFEPUSU also proposes that in the 2016/2017 financial year, a housing allowance of 10% be introduced for all public service employees as it is no secret that financial institutions take delight and find it easy to advance funding to those with housing allowance. It also proposes that the current housing and upkeep allowance be considered a right to salary to its current beneficiaries and that a real housing allowance linked to salary be introduced. However it also proposes that for officers staying in government accommodation should have their housing allowance be scrapped off while those who do not stay in pool houses be eligible for the housing allowance.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.