Former National Coordinator for the embattled Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC), Goitse Mpolokang has spoken out about a filthy mess at the organisation which has led to government seeking to dissolve the organisation.
He placed at the centre of the controversy, the contentious security organ, the Directorate of Intelligence Security Services (DISS), the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party in an untidy state of affairs at the organisation which is now facing extinction, unless the High Court intervenes.
Mpolokang spoke to this publication in an exclusive interview following the victorious High Court ruling against his former employer who unlawfully dismissed him from work in 2012. The former National Coordinator had been at logger heads with the BNYC and its board after resisting attempts of maladministration in the organisation. “The board wanted to use BNYC to advance personal and political gains for the ruling party,” he said. “I resisted that because I wanted things to be done correctly.”
He told this publication that when it became clear that there were people like him in the organisation who wanted to object to the status quo, in favour of good governance, plans were orchestrated to toss them out. “Because of my stand as somebody who wanted things to be done in a proper manner, I was perceived as an obstacle,” he added. “They even thought I was influencing the other structures of the BNYC.”
In 2012, reports became rife in the media that Mpolokang had been involved in elections’ improper conduct. Mpolokang was accused of taking sides at the election of executive committee members.
BNYC then announced the organisation was undergoing a restructuring exercise in which assurance was made that despite the exercise, no employee was going to lose his job. However, following the restructuring exercise Mpolokang and four others were told that their employment was terminated since the posts which they previously held were phased out.
In the letter dated 2nd February 2012, the former National Coordinator was told that his contract will be terminated within 30 days, a decision he challenged at the Department of Labour and won. BNYC was charged P500 for contravening the employment law.
Mpolokang was then restored to the organisation in a new post as Events Officer, reporting directly to the Executive Director. The Department of Labour also ruled that no employee of BNYC should be dismissed from work for that year’s financial year on the basis of restructuring or financial constraints.
A few months later, BNYC attempted another restructuring exercise that was halted by an urgent application before the Industrial Court by Mpolokang and other affected employees. A settlement agreement was reached in which BNYC undertook not to proceed with the retrenchment exercise.
However, subsequent to the Industrial Court order of the 15th of August 2012, BNYC employees individually received on the 26th of September 2012 letters terminating their contracts of employment with immediate effect. On that fateful day, Mpolokang remembers that BNYC Acting Executive Director, Tiny Tamasiga-Gontse who was in-charge of the organisation in place of then suspended Benjamin Raletsatsi ordered them to vacate immediately, the premises along with their personal possessions.
When they objected to being treated unfairly, and appealed for more time to remove their personal stuff from computers, DIS stormed in and confiscated computers. Mpolokang with four others were then thrown out of the premises. “We were surprised because we were being treated like criminals, yet we were employees and court had ruled in our favour,” recalled Mpolokang.
On the day the quartet was dismissed, the then Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture was to address a staff meeting at BNYC head office. “Because they did not want us to be part of the meeting, we were swiftly called at lunch time and informed about our dismissal from work,” stated Mpolokang. “We were then ordered to leave the premises immediately and removed by the DIS without any further engagement with management.”
Mpolokang and Tipati Gutcha who challenged their dismissal emerged victorious when High Court Judge Dr Zein Kebonang ruled in their favour last week. Judge Kebonang said that BNYC’s position that they were entitled to terminate the employees’ contracts at will and for no reason at all, was in his view untenable. “Just cause requires that there must be a fair and honest cause or reasons for terminating an employment contract,” he stated. “In my view, the termination of one’s employment at will, without any basis, lacks good faith and amount to a less favourable treatment.”
Judge Kebonang also ordered that BNYC pays the applicants the balance of their contracts as damages. “This is what they would have contractually been entitled to receive but for the termination and I accordingly so order,” ruled Kebonang.
Mpolokang revealed that the latest events at BNYC are as a result of greediness from the ruling party and their associates. “It is clear that BDP wants to use BNYC as a training ground for its cadres,” he said. “They want each and every structure of the BNYC to be controlled by BDP faithfuls.”
The former BNYC National Coordinator also opined that BNYC was used for looting and excessive corruption for the few individuals, therefore undermining its core mandate as a youth advocating organisation. “They felt it was infiltrated by the members of the opposition, hence they want to destroy it,” he added. “I think it is best youth form a new organisation which will affiliate with other international organisations.”
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.