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 220.127.116.11 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 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124 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.”
While it takes a lot to penetrate and thrive in the male dominated political space in Botswana, Block 3 Ward councillor Motamma Horatius, is one of the few females defying the odds.
Driven by passion, Horatius has always worn many hats and today she has become one of the few women who are thriving in the political space in Botswana. Prior to pursuing politics, she was an active participated in the creative space.
Horatius, a beauty queen, notably famous for her reign as Miss World Tourism Botswana represented Botswana in a television show famously known as Big Brother Africa. During her stay in the house, she got termed darling of the continent for an outstanding performance that promoted unity, humility and culture.
After serving for some time in public space, and making a name for herself as well as serving as a brand ambassador she decided to step in a career that will forever challenge her. This was after she had travelled the world and demonstrated her unique leadership skills and brilliance.
“I stopped and asked myself why am I not incorporating this brilliance back home. And wherever you go worldwide Botswana with all her faults is a beacon of hope in everything. And even successful countries came here to benchmark and implemented our policies and are flourishing such as Rwanda. So I decided to join active politics and go straight to the ruling party to add a youthful feel to an already existing force and help modernise it to serve better not from afar but from within,” she clarified.
“So my ample experience in civic leadership across countries around the world catapulted me to join active politics because I wondered, if I can do as much as an individual even across nations, how much can I do whilst in office, locally. And I chose to start from the ground up, in order to avoid leaving the locals behind.”
The stern and tenacious young leader, currently sit as the Chairperson of Finance Committee at Gaborone City Council, and also chairs Performance Monitoring Committee.
While a typical girl would dream of becoming either a nurse or choose a ‘girl’ orientated deemed career, she had a heart for politics from a very young age. By the time she left the creative space, she had already made a name for herself, that she needed no introduction.
“I had to acknowledge first that I am a woman, and being a woman means you have to work 200 percent more than your male counterparts. So it took sleeplessness nights, and a massive amount of working smart to win legitimately,” she said.
She acknowledges that she faced a lot of challenges during the 2019 elections which she had to overcome through the assistance of her loved ones and family.
“Politics is expensive but I managed by God’s grace, family, friends, acquaintances and good Samaritans but my mind helped. I am a very good planner when it comes to execution,” she said.
“Another hurdle is, being a young woman, I had conceived during the time of primary elections; so campaigning whilst expectant, managing your emotions through betrayals, insults, stress, house-to-house then giving birth and having to hit the ground in less than two weeks having given birth via C-section, was a hurdle I overcame by God’s mercy and I am thankful to my family for helping me with the kids because politics means a lot of time away from home.”
“Another hurdle was to portray an all rounded culturally grounded Motswana woman soft but yet stern, respectful but can articulate issues well. Because even though we are civilized our society still upholds unwritten yet practiced values of what a woman is and what a man is, and if you defy societal expectations, it judges you harshly. But thankfully I remained focused on who I was and didn’t try alternate anything When I lost some of the original members of my campaign team. The pain was deep. But I wiped my tears. Soldiered on, and God increased twice the initial number.”
At some point she had to face demeaning words from other male contestants, but the best to do at the time was to shun negativity and stay focused. Male intimidation never tugged her down.
“My experience with 2019 elections was rather inclined to learning as it was my first time running for office as a politician, so I wanted to see if really hard work has results because I always hear stories of how people are bought,” she said.
“So since I was not buying anyone, I was on a learning curve to test my hard work style of delivery against what is believed out there. So it was exciting and again I say it was a learning curve as most NGOs fighting to increase women participation in politics were continuously training us.’
Despite everything she feels women political participation in Botswana is still low. She has pleaded with the media to cover them more often as she believes maybe it will help more women to run for office.
Botswana has few women in parliament, giving men dominance in policy decisions. In a 63-seat parliament, Botswana has only seven female MPs, four of them being specially elected lawmakers.
According to the 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics. Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).
The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18.
Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).Other African countries with high percentages of women MPs include Namibia (46.2%), South Africa (42.7%) and Senegal (41.8%), according to the report.
Though a slight increase, Botswana is still lagging behind when it comes to women political participation.
According to a report made by IEC for the 2019 elections, there is 11.1% women representation in parliament. There has been a 1.6% slight increase from the 2019 election compared to the 2014 elections.
According to United Nations, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life.
These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.
As it stands though, Botswana has continued to recognize gender equality as central to socio-economic, political and cultural development through its National Vision 2036.
Following the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015, the National Gender Commission was established in September 2016, to monitor implementation of the policy.
Government ministries and departments have moved to cut expenditure in the last quarter of financial year in order to survive the economic hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, Government and the private sector have been hard hit financially due to limited economic activity brought about by government response to fighting the pandemic.
In an urgent savingram by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja addressed to all council secretaries and town clerks, the government informs that it is facing unprecedented budgetary challenges for Financial Year 2020/2021.
“This has necessitated measures to be put in place to conserve cash and ensure that government is able to honour its financial obligations in the remaining (3) months of the financial year,” said the savingram dated 24 December 2020.
The Government has cut all travel by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including State owned entities (SOEs) and Local Authorities until the next financial year in April 2021. It has also taken a decision that all meetings, interviews, seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, annual ceremonies and hospitality events should be conducted virtually, which save on the cost of securing venues, conference facilities and meals/refreshments.
“No replenishment of refreshments for the Executive Cadre (E2 salary scale and above) until the end of the financial year,” Keaja directed. Last year government also resolved that due to the financial effects of Covid-19 the government will no longer recruit for any jobs during the 2020/2021 financial year.
The Cabinet directed that the 2020/2021 provision for vacancies be withdrawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies recurrent budgets to cater for supplementary estimates. According to the saving gram then by the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) said the country faces fiscal challenges which have been accentuated by the emergence and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amongst key ministries and departments affected were the Botswana Defence Force, National Strategy Office, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Clerk of National Assembly and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).
It further deliberated that all various institutions that had begun recruitment for existing vacant positions be frozen for the remaining period of the 2020/2021 financial year. “Since funds for the vacancies will only be recruited in the next financial year 2020/20121, Ministries, Department and Agencies are advised to discontinue recruitment into such vacancies until 1st April 2021. Those who are already at an advanced stage of recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”
The Director of Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in September that despite the high unemployment rate, they cannot hire for the posts because part of the funds have been withdrawn to fight the Coronavirus.
With just a few days into the New Year, Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll and its effects will be felt vastly in the long run. Countries worldwide, including Botswana are injecting in millions of money in the fight against the deadly virus therefore placing immense uncertainty on country’s economy.
When delivering his speech at last year’s State of Nation Address President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during 2020, the domestic economy was expected to contract by 8.9 percent indicating that this is attributed to an expected sharp decline in major sectors such as mining, (minus 24.5 percent); trade, hotels and restaurants (minus 27.4 percent); construction (minus 6 percent); manufacturing (minus 3.9 percent); and transport and communications (minus 2.5 percent).
However, he assured that the economy is expected to rebound during 2021, with overall growth projected at 7.7 percent. The anticipated recovery will be driven by a rebound in growth of some major sectors such as mining (14.4 percent), trade, hotels and restaurants (18.8 percent), and transport and communications (4.2 percent).
Furthermore, Masisi pointed out that the recovery will also be supported by the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan currently being implemented by Government. “It is critical to note that these projections are dependent on, among others, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.
These containment measures have the effect of reducing spending by firms and households and causing supply-chain disruptions. Beyond this, the recovery phase will be influenced by confidence effects on households and businesses; sectoral transformation and changes in work patterns; as well as prospects for the recovery of global financial markets and commodity prices.”
Emphasising this, he explained that despite the challenges of COVID-19 there still remains the delicate balance of opening the economy whilst containing the disease burden. “Inflation according to the latest data from Statistics Botswana, inflation fell significantly from 2.2 percent in September 2019 to 1.8 percent in September 2020, remaining below the lower bound of the Bank of Botswana’s medium-term objective range of 3 to 6 percent,” he said.
The significant decline in inflation mainly reflects the downward adjustment in fuel prices in June 2020. However, inflation may rise above the current forecasts if the international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year had to cancel its elective congress due to the strict measures that had to be put in place due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
Two other party events Women’s Wing Congress including the much anticipated victorious election celebration were also postponed due to the pandemic as gatherings were cancelled indefinitely. However the BDP is adamant that the party will be able to hold its National Congress and all other events that had been frozen this year.
Speaking to this publication chairman of BDP Communication & International Relations Sub-Committee Kagelelo Kentse said that the party was readying itself for the congress with the main objective being to review resolutions that were taken at their 38th National Congress in Mochudi in 2019. Emphasising this, Kentse said it was commendable that most of the resolutions taken in 2019 have by far been fulfilled.
Moreover, he said it would mean a lot for the party to be able to meet at the congress, this he said would give them the opportunity to introspect and reflect with regards to their manifesto. In 2019 the BDP made about eleven resolutions of which five of these were resolved and gazetted. The abridged resolutions were that the amendment of the law to allow agricultural land owners to use up to 50 percent of their land for non-core purposes, to amend the law to cancel transfer duty on property transferred between the spouses.
President Masisi also passed a law to allow married couples to be independently allocated land and increase threshold for non-payment of transfer on property acquired from P250k to P750k. On the resolution in the tourism sector, Kentse said efforts are very advanced to have local play a part. He said there is ongoing work with the Ministry of Lands on concessions that will be allocated to citizens.
According to the BDP communications chair the Ministry of Tourism has availed more opportunities in dams for tourism thus far, having already issued expression of interest for Letsibogo, Dikgatlhong, and Gaborone dams. Citizens are said to have applied for tenders which are currently under evaluation. There are about 45 campsites set aside for citizens in game reserves and forest reserves for tourism.
The resolution on the declaration of assets and liabilities law which was passed and amended this year, was supported by all legislators including those from opposition. Emphasising this he explained that contentions were on issues to do with valuations, and leaders have started declaring.
With the Congress comprising of the elective congress, the BDP is yet to embark on it an objective Kentse said is on their to do list this year even though the calendar of events has not yet been made. The elective congress has aroused interest, especially the Secretary General position which has attracted a number of participants of which observers believe will accord the incumbent, Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general, the opportunity to buy time if at all he will seek re-election in the position.