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Leaked: Why BOPEU left BOFEPUSU

An internal communication of the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) detailing the reasons behind disaffiliating from the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has been leaked, and it categorically states that “BOPEU and BOFEPUSU” can never work together because they believe in two different things.”  

BOPEU is a founding member, alongside Manual Workers Union (NACLGPWU) or “MWU”, of Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU). However, in recent months and years the working relationship between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU has ‘irretrievably broken down’ , as illustrated in the following incidents and developments. In December 2015 BOPEU Congress resolved to disaffiliate from BOFEPUSU and to carry out due diligence on Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU), before a final decision to affiliate to BFTU could be made.

BOFEPUSU Congress of February 2015

The leaked BOPEU communication points to several issues that have arisen which caused a serious strain on relations between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU, “which relations are now irreconcilable”.

Congress Call –  BOPEU says According to clause 3.3.1.3 of the BOFEPUSU constitution the 2015 Congress should have been held in August 2014, with the Congress call issued 90 days prior (i.e. in June 2014), accompanied by an Agenda. BOPEU contends that BOFEPUSU Executive delayed the holding of Congress without any valid reason (e.g. valid reason could be pending audit), until BOPEU threatened, in October 2014, to withhold subscriptions as leverage to compel BOFEPUSU to obey its own constitution. Had it not been for BOPEU’s intervention, in writing and threatening, that a Call to Congress was made by BOFEPUSU Secretary General in December 2014 for February 2015.

“This deliberate avoidance of Congress caused a lot of animosity, political skirmishes and strain on relations between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU. It also indicates the administrative and organisational state of BOFEPUSU,” reads the document.  

BOPEU Motions – In the view of BOPEU, their written motions were not allowed (not permitted for discussion) because they were submitted late, even though the BOFEPUSU constitution allows even for motions from the floor of Congress (special resolutions). They state that most of the motions sought to improve governance and administration of BOFEPUSU and for a review of BOFEPUSU constitution.

“The rejection of the motions illustrated how BOFEPUSU regards BOPEU’s contributions – that BOPEU’s contributions should be excluded at all costs.”  

Annual Audits – BOPEU says according to clauses 11.4.3.1 and 11.4.3.2 of the BOFEPUSU constitution the Secretary General is responsible for “preparation and circulation of financial annual report…and circulation of auditor’s report”. Clause 14.7 makes the carrying out of audits mandatory. BOFEPUSU Executive and secretariat failed to present to Congress Audited Financial Report (or at least Interim financials), in violation of its own constitution and of Section 42 of TUOEA. In addition to delegates’ calling for audited statements at Congress, BOPEU says it has written several letters to BOFEPUSU, in response to BOFEPUSU’s demands for funding, in which BOPEU sought explanation as to why BOFEPUSU cannot comply with the law and its own constitution with respect to auditing. No responses were received.

“It must be noted that Audited financials are required as a main component of Annual Returns to the Registrar of Trade Unions and are a valid ground for de-registration. The old Executive has admitted publicly that BOFEPUSU never carried out an Audit of its accounts since it was formed in 2008. As a result of BOFEPUSU’s continuous failure to account, BOPEU NoB, NEC and GC resolved to withhold monthly subscriptions to BOFEPUSU, to try to compel BOFEPUSU to account. BOPEU’s monthly subs amount to P28,000 pm or P336,000 per annum,” reads the BOPEU internal document.

“BOPEU delegates’ request for audited financials was regarded as a provocation or because “BOPEU is a sell-out”. There was and is still no remorse about failure to account and it seems the omission was deliberate,” concludes the report.

Minutes of 2012 Congress – The Secretary of the BOFEPUSU Executive also failed to submit minutes of 2012 Congress. Likewise, BOPEU delegates’ request for minutes was also regarded as a provocation or because BOEPU is a “sell-out”. Again, it seems the omission was deliberate and to date there is no official record of the 2012 Congress.

Eligibility of Union employees to hold positions on BOFEPUSU Executive: BOPEU delegates tried to raise the issue of whether union employees were eligible to stand for union political positions in the BOFEPUSU Executive, in light of Section 21 of the TUEOA. Again BOPEU’s raising of the issue was viewed as a provocation, especially of Manual Workers Union (MWU), which nominated four (4) of its employees into the Executive. Yet this issue has long term implications on the legality of BOFEPUSU itself, as currently more than half of the BOFEPUSU Executive are union employees. Section 21(1), (2) and (3) of TUEOA read thus;

“No person shall be admitted to membership of a trade union unless he is an employee in an industry with which the trade union is directly concerned. No employee of a trade union shall be admitted to membership of the trade union. Upon a member of a trade union becoming an employee of the trade union, he shall immediately cease to be a member of the trade union.

BOPEU argues that the majority of persons allowed to stand and who currently occupy positions in the BOFEPUSU Executive did not qualify to stand or to be elected. They poke at the eligibility of
Mr Johnson Pikinini Motshwarakgole – Secretary for Labour Affairs – Employee of MWU; Mr Samuel Molaodi – Secretary for Education Affairs – Employee of MWU;  Mr Simon Kgaoganang – Secretary for Gender and Women’s Affairs – Employee of MWU; Mr Johannes Tshukudu – President – Employee of BTU; and Mr Ketlhalefile Motshegwa – Deputy Secretary General – Employee of BLLAHWU.

BOPEU says since union employees are not employed in the industry with which the trade union is concerned (i.e. not workers) they are not eligible to be members and are precluded from paying membership/subscription fees. The above persons are not “members” or “officers” of the affiliate trade unions.  

“Ironically, the same reasoning was used to remove the BLLAHWU President from office (i.e. not paying subscription). Effectively this renders BOFEPUSU an unlawful organisation, saved only by Government’s (Registrar’s) inaction, whether deliberate or due to ignorance.

When this matter was raised at the 2015 Congress some of the above persons demonstrated that they are aware of the provisions of the law and the constitution. The prolonged illegality is therefore deliberate and self-serving.”

“Rather than being embroiled into a political and legal battle it is easier (and wiser) for BOPEU to disaffiliate rather than go through the legal and political battle with BOFEPUSU Executive. It is not worth it,” reads the leaked document.

BOPEU candidates’ nominations and Elections: BOPEU says at nomination time, there was a pattern of predetermined outcomes to reject all BOPEU nominations. BOPEU’s exclusion was also demonstrated in songs composed about BOPEU by delegates from other unions and a general hostile environment.

“The atmosphere was a clear, practical demonstration that BOPEU was unwanted in the family. The celebrations thereafter on social media of how BOPEU has been white washed also added to the confirmation of the attitude.”

Internal relations in the old BOFEPUSU Executive: According to BOPEU, prior to Congress there was a deliberate undermining of the then BOFEPUSU President (BOPEU VP) as an extension of BOPEU’s marginalisation. Some members of the BOFEPUSU Executive held official CEC meetings without her knowledge and participation. One such meeting held at Airport junction mall resolved to make a press release about BOFEPUSU’s endorsement of UDC. When she made a Press Release to correct the position the Secretary General made a counter statement.

“These CEC intra-conflicts also contributed to the current situation. The ‘apology’ by BOFEPUSU Secretary General at the 2014 Annual Convention did not address the fundamental issues  but just an appeal to let ‘bygones be bygones’. No attempt was made to reconcile differences. Instead in 2015 when similar differences have arisen, BOFEPUSU’s Secretary General expresses confidence that BOPEU Congress will agree with them. This kind of self-assurance takes BOPEU members for granted,” reads the internal communique.

Bargaining Council is another area of contention, which has brought irreconcilable difference, is the issue of membership of the Bargaining Council. BOPEU says when the term of office of the previous Council lapsed, BOPEU sought to have its members replaced.

“The view in BOPEU has been that this provided an opportunity to replace political officers with independent skilled negotiators who will have mandates but not vested interest, to reduce political controversy, which was bogging down progress in the Council. It also brought an opportunity to have Government team also replaced. However, BOFEPUSU negotiators wanted to maintain status quo. Their interpretation of the PSBC constitution coincided with that of the employer party,” BOPEU says.  

UNIGEM and other investments – Another cause of differences concerned UNIGEM, says BOPEU. UNIGEM was making losses in a row, at a time when the contract was coming to an end.

“By its own projections UNIGEM was projected to make an accumulated loss of P7m in over 5 years. Yet BOFEPUSU stated that UNIGEM was a profit making entity and spread malicious rumours that BOPEU was going to be given the tender alone as a reward for supporting for BDP in the 2014 elections, through a deal with a certain Mr Chitube, who was being prepared to be the next BDP President. Recently (November 2015) BTU stated the same issue in its annual report, that UNIGEM losses have affected the balance sheet of their investment arm, More Power Investments (Pty) Ltd. BTU was not accused of any BDP links despite holding the same view about UNIGEM as a loss-making entity,” reads the BOPEU document.

“Why was BOPEU expected to carry on with a loss making entity? On the hand BOPEU has not disinvested from BOTUSAFE, which is another joint venture with some BOFEPUSU affiliates, because it is making profit.”

Political affiliation – BOPEU says another source of irreconcilable difference is how each organisation handles the issue of political alignment and /or UDC endorsement. BOPEU says its position is based on a Convention resolution that the union should not align or affiliate to any political party. Though this position is reviewable by Convention or Congress it is binding on BOPEU Executive (NoB and NEC). Any BOPEU official who expresses this position is therefore speaking on behalf of all members.

“On the contrary the group, which now controls BOFEPUSU Executive, prefer that such decisions be regarded as operational rather than policy decisions. They held this same view before the Congress which they continue to maintain: that the issue of political alignment can be changed at any time. Yet they do not have a mandate from members giving them latitude to decide on such a matter,” reads the BOPEU document.

According to the document Clause 3 of BOFEPUSU constitution states that “Congress shall be the sole decision making body of the federation….every matter for consideration by Congress shall be on motion duly seconded…”. It is this very democratic procedure that the dominant group in BOFEPUSU Executive thwarted at the 2015 Congress by blocking BOPEU motions.

“While BOPEU believes that the issue of political alignment is a major policy decision that cannot be made by a few individuals on behalf of members, BOFEPUSU Executive believes that not only do they have a right to make that decision, they could also change it as many times as they wish. The least that BOFEPUSU could do is to refer this contentious issue to the General Council (GC). Thus, the Central Executive has abrogated itself the powers of both the GC and Congress.”

BOPEU says this is one of the main causes of irreconcilable difference between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU. “At the core is the issue of governance, of a federation leadership which believes it should make decisions on behalf of members versus an affiliate which is democratically controlled by members. Not only is conflict inevitable but will be endless.”

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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