Matambo protests disciplined forces pay
By Tefo Pheage
Matambo advised that disciplined forces live in institutional houses
The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo is said to have been the one who raised his hand against the inclusion of the disciplined forces in the housing and upkeep allowance, subsequently forcing the government to withdraw the money and make gradual deductions of the overpays.
The housing and upkeep allowance was introduced in April by a Service Management Directive No. 7 of 2015, dated 8th April, 2015 for lower bands, currently finding it hard to make ends meet under the prevailing harsh economic situation. The allowance was expected to avert situations where workers would experience dilemmas once the recession allowance stops because they would have already been accustomed to that money.
The allowance which followed the six percent public service salary increase was introduced together with initiatives to allow public servants to run their own businesses to supplement their salaries because government may not be able to meet all their financial demands. The allowance was rolled down to the low earning officers in which was hailed as a wise move by the government.
However the move was short-lived, after Minister Matambo protested that the disciplined forces and other public servants live in institutional houses but continue to get the housing and upkeep allowance, the government resolved to stopping the allowance and making deductions of the said overpays.
The Police Commissioner in June 18, 2015 after learning of the issue informed his officers that ‘police officers across all ranks do not qualify for this allowance by virtue of already enjoying free housing’.
The circular read, “reference is made to Public Service Management Directive No. 7 of 2015, dated 8th April, 2015, which amongst others, introduced housing and upkeep allowance. The necessary clarifications have been sought from the employing authority regarding entitlement and payment of the housing and upkeep allowance. Subsequently, addressees are hereby informed that police officers across all ranks do not qualify for this allowance by virtue of already enjoying free housing. Ensure this message reaches the rest of the service.”
The issue angered the officers who threatened to embark on a go slow and wondered why the Commissioner discriminated against the police officers while others had been spared. They further argued that the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) never said that the housing and upkeep allowance would be enjoyed by those who do not stay in institutional houses.
This week Prisons officers were jaw dropped upon receiving their pay slips after learning of deductions in their monthly pay.
More shocking for them was that unlike the Police officers they were never alerted or prepared for the changes or allowance stoppage. They further argue that they have learnt that the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) once again has received preferential treatment as their salaries remain intact and enviable.
Asked to shed some light on the issue, the Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi said that the April 2015 Public Service Management Directive No. 7 of 2015 was wrongly implemented and created problems and confusions hence the mix up.
“Directives are made and implemented in haste. When they are made you will find that no one knows what do to and how to do it but there is also a deadline for its implementation. This often leads to the implementers committing some errors and confusions,” he said.
Morupisi further said that the changes in the allowance withdrawals should not cause any confusion, “that is a housing allowance and you can’t be living in an institutional house and still expect it. I think it’s just a matter of basics,” he said.
He further reasoned that the government workforce is too big, further adding that “such mistakes are justifiable”. “So we have decided to correct and normalise things. We will be making deductions every month for those who have been overpaid as a result of the wrongful receipt of the allowance,” he said.
Asked why the Botswana Defence Force has been excluded the PSP said he doesn’t want to get into BDF issues as they are a separate body, “I am not sure whether they are affected or not, ask them,” he said.
University of Botswana academic, Professor Emmanuel Botlhale conceded that the government erred and should do better than that in the future.
“The Public Service Management Directive No. 7 of 2015, dated 8th April, 2015, should have indicated that there were exceptions and the exceptions should have been explicitly communicated so that the affected communities get to know that they were not eligible to benefit from the housing allowance since they are already enjoy housing allowances,” he said.
Professor Botlhale continued that matters of emolument and related matters such as staff benefits are sensitive and once staff benefits are extended, withdrawing them, expectedly, occasions a lot of discomfort on the part of the beneficiaries, particularly, if they are expected to pay back the money.
“Of course, if the legal position is that police officers across all ranks do not qualify for this allowance by virtue of already enjoying free housing, then, the status quo should obtain and corrective action be taken. Moving forward, management must be very vigilant so that incidences of this nature do not occur again because if and when one unduly benefits from state resources, even if not through a fault of one’s own, one is expected to make recompense to the state,” he advised.
Meanwhile, observers maintain that the government must get its house in order to avoid re-occurrence of similar mishaps in the future as this doesn’t portray them well. They further argue that the mistakes often lead to serious challenges on the part of government as well as the beneficiaries.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”