Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) President Andrew Motsamai has accused Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo of deliberately misleading parliament with regards to the effects of industrial action by Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) employees.
Motsamai told a press briefing this week that the minister was either not well informed about the situation on the ground or deliberately opted to mislead parliament. “What the Minister said confirms a rather sad trend in Government whereby at all material times, Government as the major employer would take its employees and trade unions for granted,” he said.
Matambo told parliament that the ministry of Finance and Development Planning has not yet established the actual loss to the economy and revenue collections due to the ongoing Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) strike.
Motsamai said a significant number of trucks were allowed to enter and, or cross the country without the necessary customs and tax processes. He said it appears the employer is adamant that, visiting and or returning citizens may enter the country unsearched in almost all ports of entries, including our international airports.
“The information that we continue to receive, points to fact that business in general is suffering,” he lamented. “The usual flow of goods in and outside the country has been seriously interrupted and to a large extend hampered.”
Motsamai concluded that it was not possible at this point in time, not to imagine the amount and level of potential revenue lost due to the Government and BURS Management’s attitude to the workers’ demands. Minister Matambo informed parliament that any suggestion indicating the extent of damage to the economy as a result of the industrial action will be based on speculation.
The finance minister also quashed any suggestion that the country could have been endangered by the strike due to lack of adequate staff to man the borders during the strike. Matambo said the strike had a minimal impact on security since law enforcement agencies, being the police and immigration departments continued to provide services uninterrupted.
Matambo was responding to a question brought before him by MP for Gaborone Bonnington South Ndaba Gaolathe who wanted the minister to update and brief parliament on the strike, including provision of an assessment on the potential negative impact on the economy and security of Botswana to date.
BURS employees went on strike countrywide two weeks ago following failure to reach an agreement between BURS management and BOPEU, a union representing the workers who were on strike.
Motsamai revealed this week that BOPEU leadership had consulted striking workers and agreed on new tactics to continue frustrating the employer. “Going forward we now intent to embark on an action short of a strike whereat, the industrial action will assume a combination of a go-slow, a sit in, a work to rule approach as well as a two days once a month of total withdrawal of labour,” he said.
The BOEPU president said the change in tactics on their side is based on their desire to mitigate the possible adverse effects experienced by Batswana and visitors going in and out of our ports of entries. “We would not want to assume a similar position of aloofness on the basis that we can pay salaries of the striking workers for the lost days during the strike at the expense of nation,” he said.
BOPEU also announced that they set-up a strike fund four years ago to pay its members during the time when they are on strike and affirmed that what they will be able to pay members who are on strike.
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.