The Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) is prepared to take the government head on in court over the contentious issue of Levels of Operations (LOO). The Union is of the view that the issue has disenfranchised thousands of primary school teachers with regard to their promotion and progression to higher scales.
The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) this week made it clear that the matter will not be resolved before an evaluation conducted by government officials to determine whether LOO extends to Primary School Senior Teachers or not.
BTU Secretary General, Ibo Kenosi this week told this publication that the union has decided to recall its members who had formed part of Task Force that was to carry out evaluation assessment on Primary School Senior Teachers.
Kenosi has written a letter to Ruth Maporisa, Director of DPSM informing her that it was never the intention or purpose of LOO arrangement that entitlement will be based on job evaluation assessments.
“The requirement for a job evaluation assessment is an additional requirement that was never part of the original content of the LOO scheme,” reads the letter seen by this publication.
It further reads: “This additional requirement is unlawful and irregular and BTU does not accept it.”
Following the meeting between unions representing teachers and the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) officials last week, the three parties agreed to refer the issue regarding LOO to DPSM since it is dealing with promotions.
LOO was introduced in 2013 as a Remuneration Levelling Ground Dispensation and sought to promote social labour justice by recognising the need to level the payment structure of a more homogenous value chain job, so that all government employees are not disadvantaged.
BTU is however disappointed by the segregated implementation of the policy since it did not benefit primary school teachers but rather disenfranchised thousands of them from promotions and progressing to C1 scale. “This phenomenon is not only discriminatory to primary school teachers against the whole of the public service, but it also discriminates them against each other within the wider education sector,” states the position paper prepared by BTU.
Currently, primary school teachers still earn lower than junior secondary and senior secondary teachers even when they hold equal or better still higher qualifications than them. Junior secondary teachers and senior secondary teachers however earn equal salaries for similar posts as long as their qualifications are the same.
According to Kenosi, as long as government pays nurses and doctors equal salaries for equal qualifications regardless of whether they are deployed at clinics or primary hospitals, the same should apply in the teaching fraternity.
The BTU Secretary General is convinced that what is happening currently is confirmation that government undermines primary education and its importance, hence its continued refusal to allow teachers at primary to enjoy the same salary benefits as those at secondary level. “Government is negotiating in bad faith and it is evident that the officials are not worried about primary teachers as their employees,” he said.
The position paper submitted by BTU to DPSM states that findings from EFA (2000), UNESCO (2004), World Bank (2006) and the World Skill Competition Assessment Committee (2008) affirm that no level of education is more critical than the other.
The paper however states that despite this, in terms of labour needs and complexity of delivery, pre-primary and primary are the most laborious and intellectual commandeering, hence demanding a more inspired but committed teacher-force in a competitively well remunerated labour environment peculiar to the teaching profession.
The BTU position paper notes that at junior and senior secondary levels, School Heads were moved from D3 and D2 respectively to an all D1 scale in recognition of the critical role they all play at management levels, as result no one was disenfranchised on account of level of delivery of education. Deputy School heads, Head of Departments (HODs) and senior teachers at both junior and secondary progressed to a higher scale.
However, the BTU position paper contends that the above scenario exposed the primary school teachers’ situation and contravenes the spirit of LOO because of the disempowering hierarchy. Under the LOO, at primary level, the School Head, Deputy School Head, HODs and senior teachers earn less than their counterparts at secondary level, irrespective of qualifications.
BTU states that the current state of affairs is diminishing more so that many of these senior teachers are more qualified than their secondary level counterparts. “Unlike at secondary levels, there are no financial segregated rewards and delinking of positions at senior teacher level. In the worst of scenarios newly appointed senior teachers may earn less than teachers who progressed to C1 earlier than them,” contends the paper.
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.