Gov’t to reinstate all workers fired in 2012
The Ministry of Health is allegedly planning to reinstate all the employees it dismissed in 2012 following the historic public service strike which took place the previous year.
Information reaching WeekendPost suggests that the move which was taken during a recent cabinet meeting is an effort by the government to reconcile with the disgruntled civil service and address the long outstanding issue of shortage of health workers in the country.
“Letters are being disbursed and those who are still interested in rejoining the civil service would be re-employed,” stated an inside source.
The Ministry’s Public Relations office has not denied the allegation and has not confirmed it either.
However the alleged decision is viewed as a welcome move by the umbrella for the Public service unions, Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU).
“Thupa e tshwere mooka (they got a wakeup call). It was insensitive of the government in the first place to dismiss people from work,” BOFEPUSU Secretary General, Tobokani Rari noted.
During the second week of May 2011 a total of 2 934 public service employees employed by the Ministry of Health were dismissed for failing to comply with an industrial court order which declared that their engagement in the strike was unlawful. The order interdicted them from further continuing in the strike which was taking place throughout the country.
BOFEPUSU took the matter to court and Justice key Dingake ruled in favour of the dismissed workers. He literally reinstated the workers and advised them to report for duty within 21 days of his ruling. However the government appealed the matter and succeeded in getting the President of the Court of Appeal, Ian Kirby to set aside Dingake’s ruling.
According to Kirby, the government was fair in dismissing the said employees because they violated their conditions of service.
However the current development is viewed as a smart move by the government towards reconciliation with the civil service ahead of the next general elections.
“The government is feeling the pressure. The fact that the civil service is standing up to say that this is not the government we can run with has probably made it to start considering the needs of the workers,” Rari expressed before adding that, even a blind person can see that “there is a lot of dissatisfaction demonstrated by the workers. One such demonstration is through the ballot.”
The ruling Democratic Party has consistently been losing by-elections since the last general elections which were held last year to mainly the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
Currently members of the UDC include three political parties, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP). However of late, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has been making suggestions that they might join the three parties ahead of the 2019 general elections with the aim to oust the BDP from its five decade rule. By 2015, the BDP would have ruled the country for an uninterrupted 53 years.
The government is the biggest employer in the country and the government trade unions especially their umbrella union, BOFEPUSU, has always rallied behind UDC since its inception shortly after the 2011 civil service strike. They have always made it known that their aim is to change the current regime and help UDC win. Nonetheless the BDP remains the strongest party which enjoyed popular vote in last general elections.
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Batswana owe banks P79 billion
The Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, has disclosed that the total bank credit extended by commercial banks amounted to P79 billion, out of which P53.4 billion was retail loans and advances to households.
Parliament was informed this week in response to a question by the Member of Parliament for Selibe-Phikwe West and Leader of Opposition (LOO), Dithapelo Keorapetse.
â€śAs at 31st December 2022, loans and other advances extended to households by banks constituted the largest share of bank-lending at 67.6 percent, the majority of which was unsecured personal loans at P36.2 billion (67.8%),â€ť said Serame.
She added that the total household Debt to GDP ratio was 21.9%, while the total private business credit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was 10.8%.
On the other hand, it was noted that outstanding mortgage loans extended to households were P14.2 billion (26.6% of household debt) or 5.9% of GDP. Overall, total bank credit as a ratio of GDP stood at 32.7 percent.
It was acknowledged that there are 10 deposit-taking banks in the country, that is, nine commercial banks and one statutory bank (Botswana Savings Bank). This statistics excludes the National Development Bank (NDB), which is a development finance institution. The nine commercial banks include an indigenous bank, Botswana Building Society Bank Limited (BBSBL), which was issued with a commercial banking license by the Bank of Botswana in October 2022.
Still in December 2022, it was recorded that there were 376 non-bank lenders in Botswana consisting of 246 micro lenders, 66 finance companies, three leasing companies and 61 registered pawnshops.
According to Minister Serame, the loan book value representing the principal amount lent by these entities to individuals and to small, medium and micro Enterprises (SMMEs) is collated by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), which at 31stÂ of December 2021, the loan book values were P5.6 billion for micro lenders, P1.6 billion for finance companies, P225 million for leasing companies and P14 million for pawnshops.
Government policy is that price control is not effective or desirable, and, as such, interest rates are not regulated. Non-regulation may, among other things, result in an increase in non-interest rate fees and commissions, reduced price transparency, lower credit supply and loan approval rates.
â€śIt is important to note that, from a macroeconomic perspective, household debt in Botswana is neither a pandemic nor considered to be excessive. Indeed, the Bank of Botswanaâ€™s periodic and continuous assessments of household debt, including through the annual Household Indebtedness Surveys, suggest moderate household indebtedness and therefore, is of no apparent risk to the safety and soundness of the domestic financial system,â€ť said Serame.
She also alluded this assessment is validated by the recently concluded Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) on Botswana undertaken by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.
Keorapetse however rebuked the issue of debt not being excessive and noted the Minister thinks itâ€™s fine for Batswana to be debt burdened in a way that their debts diminishes their quality of life.
â€śA significant portion of Batswanaâ€™s salaries go to servicing debts and because she doesnâ€™t see this as a challenge, there can never be any intervention from her side.Â There is no price regulation on interest, which can go up to 30%+ a month.Â Â Since President Masisi ascended to the high office in 2018, 2 384 Batswana were put in prison for failure to pay debts, that is 467 Batswana every year. So, for us, debt problems are big and concerning,â€ť said Keorapetse.
He said they are worried because Batswana are drowning in debts because of relative poverty, slave wages and unemployment/underemployment, they buy basic needs and services with borrowed money and noted predatory and unethical lending has become a major problem in Botswanaâ€™s financial sector.
How to fleece P14 million from Chinese investor
The modus operandi of how five men allegedly swindled a Chinese national P14 million last week continue to unravel. Highly placed sources from the intelligence, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) revealed to this publication how the whole scam was concocted.
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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 Botswanaâ€™s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, â€śMerging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.â€ť
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).
â€śIt 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,â€ť 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 â€śwe require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,â€ť 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. â€śIt is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.â€ť
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
â€śWe 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.â€ť
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.
â€śWater pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanityâ€™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.â€ť
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.
â€śIn 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 â€śWe need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.â€ť