The standoff between Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), which has led to the ongoing strike, has exposed the country to new threats as there are growing fears that drugs could be trafficked and ivory smuggled into the country, WeekendPost has learnt.
Although BURS officials have created an impression that the tax collecting agency has been able to cushion the undesirable consequences resulting from the strike, the reality is that the custom points country wide are non-functional and the country could be at risk of attracting undesirable elements in and out of the country.
This week, the busiest borders were non-functional with only few staff manning them. Of the 32 BURS employees based at the Ramatlabama border, only 3 were on duty, with the other 29 employees on strike. This meant that vehicles and mostly trucks passing through the border went through without having to pay customs as should be.
“It is obvious that with the current situation, everything can happen,” said a reliable source close to the developments. “It is not only about losing millions but the border has been exposed to bad business transactions including diamond smuggling.”
BOPEU had intentionally targeted certain entry points where the volume of customs passing through them are voluminous and would hit the employer where it hurts most. Currently, the points which have the busiest customs transactions and employ a significant number of employees include Ramatlabama border, Tlokweng border, Ramokgwebana border, Gaborone head office and Airport unit among others.
BOPEU President Andrew Motsamai revealed in a press briefing that they have received reports from Zimbabwean border over the Ramokgwebana gate. Although he said they faced challenges initially in mobilising their members to go on strike, they have managed to lobby all employees engaged on the commercial side of the BURS to go on strike.
Ramokgwebana is earmarked as a strategic point of target, and reports from Zimbabwe indicate that there are frustrations and delays on the Botswana side, much to the pleasure of BOPEU.
Motsamai also told the media briefing that the employer continues to use all sorts of intimidation to scare the striking workforce.
BURS Commissioner General Ken Morris has written a letter to BOPEU accusing the union of violating the strike rules. Morris said members of BOPEU on strike are embarking on unlawful picketing at the BURS Head Office.
The BURS chief also said the conduct of BOPRU members is clearly aimed at intimidating those employees of BURS who are not on strike. BURS threatened to haul BOPEU to the courts if its members continue with the unlawful strike. “We advise that, should you and your members persist with the said conduct, we reserve our right to approach court for appropriate relief including an order declaring the strike unlawful,” reads the letter.
BOPEU have since responded to the letter denying all accusations levelled against its members. In fact, BOPEU responded accusing BURS of trying to intimidate its employees who are on strike and instructing them to resume their duties. “Your office has deployed managers and Security and Law enforcement agencies with a view to intimidate our members who are on strike,” said Topius Marenga, BOPEU Secretary General.
Marenga has dared BURS to go court and stated that the submissions made by BURS are an effort to intimidate and threaten the union, further requesting that the revenue agency stop the intimidation. “If you cannot accede to our request, then we are more than ready to meet you in court,” he responded.
BOPEU had initially planned to go on strike two days per week but have since revised that to a full week strike for the first 14 days and thereafter indefinitely, subsequent to consultation with employees who are on strike.
BOPEU has also written to other unions, notably BOFEPUSU affiliates and Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) seeking solidarity in the ongoing strike.
Motsamai revealed that the union also plans to use them during weekends to mount pressure on the employer. “We would urge them to specifically attend rallies at all ports of entry again with emphasis on the boarders prior to picketing days,” he said.
A squabble has broken out between Pule Mosala Funeral Parlour and the Botswana Police Service (BPS) over the remains of a South African national who has been in the Mosala mortuary for more than nineteen months. The deceased was one of 10 suspects who were controversially shot dead during a lengthy shootout with law enforcement authorities in Gaborone’s Phase 2 early last year.
The deceased individual’s family based in Soweto, has encountered difficulties in repatriating the body which has been in the care of Mosala Mortuary Services. Following the incident, it has emerged that all 10 bodies were transported to PFG mortuary in Lobatse for a brief period while the police attempted to locate their next of kin. It is reported that the families of the deceased were eventually identified and informed to come and identify their loved ones, including other South African nationals who were part of the criminal group. These families also witnessed the autopsy procedures conducted at Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone.
Except for the family from Soweto, nine of the bodies were claimed and taken by their separate relatives. The Soweto family claims they lack the resources to bring the body back to South Africa and has made it known that they are looking for money. To end the supposed verbal agreement over the body’s storage for repatriation, Mosala Funeral Service has filed a case against the police at the Lobatse High Court.
According to Keakantse Mmotlhana, the company’s Sales and Marketing Manager, 10 people who were killed in Phase 2 by gunfire were all temporarily transferred to one of PFG’s branches in Lobatse by the police while efforts were made to find their next of kin. She expressed outrage at the statement made by the Minister of Defense and Security, recently.
After Assistant Police Commissioner Dipheko Motube called her office to apologize for giving the Minister wrong information during a news conference, she confirmed that they had accepted the apologies. He made it clear that one of the victims was still at Pule Mortuary in Lobatse.
Bushie Mosala, the director and owner of Mosala Funeral Services, confirmed that the body of a South African national has been in his mortuary for the past nineteen months. He expressed his desire for the police to remove the corpse from the mortuary, characterising the situation as a “nightmare.” He has instructed his legal team to file a lawsuit against the police in the Lobatse High Court concerning the body.
Mosala urged the acting Police Commissioner to come forward and apologize to the nation for the situation, asserting that the public has the right to know the truth regarding the body of the South African national, w
C -002Bhich was preserved by the police as evidence.
The South African High Commission in Gaborone had not responded to queries from Weekend Post at the time going of going to press.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) has expressed alarm over a troubling trend by the government. Tobokani Rari, Secretary General of the BOSETU, stated that it appears that these days, whenever there is a dispute between workers and the government, the administration is fast to run to the courts to attempt and muffle unions.
“This is quite disturbing development, we have seen it with the Botswana Doctors Union, there was a disagreement over the shift allowance, government rushed to court, they indeed got order that was saying the doctors should go and do the work. We have seen it with the nurses, they rushed to court they got the order, we are now seeing it with the teachers, they rushed to the court and they got what they wanted,” said Rari, who also served as the Secretary General of BOFEPUSU.
Rari raised concerns that the government’s enforcement of teacher’s work, through a court order will result in reduced classroom productivity and morale. Rari added that this situation would negatively impact labour relations and teachers emotional wellbeing due to dissatisfaction in their work places leading to persistently poor academic outcomes.
“You can get an order that forces people to work, but what happens at work, it heightens emotions, it destroys relationships and the morale goes down and productivity does. Courts and judgments don’t solve productivity issues. Productivity only comes when people are satisfied at the workplace, so if you force them to work through a court order then you may not get the maximum out of the working population,” said Rari
MESD vs BOSETU COURT CASE
“As you are aware, the Ministry of Education approached courts and they were demanding three things from the court in this case between BOSETU and the ministry. First, they were demanding that the joint letter that was written by BOSETU and Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) asking members to stop doing course work because there was no agreement be declared unlawfully and BOSETU should write to its members and withdraw that letter within 24hrs. The second thing that they were looking for, was to interdict BOSETU from further issuing any instructions to that effect going forward. Lastly was that court should hold BOSETU to pay the cost of the lawsuit on a punitive scale,” Rari said.
Rari stated that the court decided to rule in favour of the Ministry of Education on all three relieves sought, that the savingram should be declared unlawful, that BOSETU should withdraw the contents savingram within 24hrs.
Court also said BOSETU should not issue any of such instructions going forward up until the case of contempt that BOSETU has taken to court, the contempt of the 2009 judgment has been decided. Court also awarded cost to the ministry on a punitive scale.
“BOSETU is a law abiding citizen and therefore we are bound by any laws and judgments that are there in Botswana and arise on the courts of Botswana hence we have complied with the order. On the 31st after the court case, we wrote to all our members and told them that the contents of that savingram as far as coursework is concerned has been withdrawn,” said Rari.
Rari said what happened in this case is that the judge decided to listen to the urgency without the responding affidavits of the opposing party, BOSETU, and went on to rule the merit of the case, which surprised the union.
“However we have been in discussion with our lawyers because if we leave things like this, we feel like we cannot leave that unchallenged. We have taken a decision to appeal the judgment,” Rari confirmed.
2023 COURSEWORK AND INVIGILATION AGREEMENT
“We would like to make our members aware that the following day after the judgment, we were able to meet the Ministry of Education and we have arrived at a conclusion that we signed an agreement that coursework rates will be increased by 5%. If court had ruled that coursework is the duty of the teachers’ means it wouldn’t have been any agreement after the court case, it tells you that the issue is still open and it is on the table. We have arrived at an agreement that there is going to be an increment on all components of coursework and invigilation,” Rari pointed out.
Rari further explained that Article 2 says union party is to submit detailed proposals on the intensity of the coursework for further engagement. Intensity of coursework means where the coursework payment starts in terms of varying from different subjects. He said the outcome based subject that are taught Maun Senior Secondary School and Moeng college which are agriculture and hotel and tourism is that ministry have agreed and acknowledge that there are some peculiarity in their coursework and therefore should be paid in line with the peculiarities that are contained in their coursework.
Rari pointed out the resolutions taken at the conference where the issue of application of corporal punishment was addressed. “BOSETU will issue out a memo to their members to advise them that they should not apply corporal punishment, they should leave it to be applied in line with the Education Act.”
The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) which had struck a deal with the Ministry of Education to supply some schools in the northern part of the country is counting losses as mass migration of buffalos jeopardize the Commission’s plans.
Information reaching this publication shows that the beef exporter was recently given the greenlight to supply government schools with beef. According to documents seen by this publication, as a result BMC had scheduled to buy and collect cattle in the Nata-Gweta and Boteti constituencies from 11 to 17 September.
This was after BMC and the Ministry of Education struck a deal for the former to supply government schools with beef. Letters exchanged between Ministry officials state that it has been recommended to the ministry to support BMC by allowing it to supply schools with beef products.
The Ministry indicated that it was aware that some schools have contracts that are currently running with suppliers such as local butcheries.
The Ministry revealed that at the same time BMC has 256 tins of frozen quality meat at its Maun Plant.
The Ministry requested the Director-Regional Operations to appoint an officer to manage the procurement of meat for schools that do not currently have running contracts. The Ministry further stated that Modalities of collection will be arranged between the region and the schools identified.
According to the Ministry, a list of schools including the condition of their cold rooms and their number of deliveries and kilograms per week they buy should be compiled. The Ministry also requested its officials to share the list with headquarters and the acting director-Basic Education, and engage BMC accordingly to procure.
But this plan ran into trouble after it emerged that between 300 to 500 buffalos migrated from the buffalo fence area to Nata, Dukwi and Mosetse areas.
The Department of Veterinary Services sprang into acting by revising movement protocol for cloven-hoofed animals with immediate effect following buffalo sightings in zone 3b which covers Nata/Sowa, zone 3c which is around the Dukwi areas as well as zone 6a, which covers the Mosetse area, which fall under zones, 3b, 3c, 5,6a and 8.
The Department of Veterinary Services indicated that as a result, movement of live cloven-hoofed animals and their products out of zones 3b, 3c, 5, 6a and 8 were prohibited and that movement of live cloven-hoofed animals within and into these zones is only allowed for direct slaughter at licensed slaughter facilities under veterinary movement permit issued through BAITS.
The department also indicated that the movement of fresh products derived from cloven-hoofed animals such as raw milk, skins and fresh meat into these zones is also only allowed under a similar arrangement.
Movement of live cloven-hoofed animals into these zones for rearing and other purposes will not be allowed, and farmers and the general public is requested to continue being vigilant and report any buffalo sightings to the nearest veterinary office, the police or the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, the department said.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Agriculture has stated that following the press release on prohibition of movement of live cloven-hooved animals and their products in and out of Zones 3b, 3c, 5, 6a & 8, the acting Minister of Agriculture Karabo Gare, his counterpart Acting Minister of Environment, Wildlife & Tourism Mabuse Pule, acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Mr. Joshua Moloi, Director of Veterinary Services Dr Kefentse Motshegwa and other government officials visited the areas of Sepako and Dukwi respectively on a mission to consult with communities regarding the invasion of the places by buffalos.
Minister Gare alluded that they have been sent by the President of Botswana, who is equally worried by the current situation. He noted that the affected areas have a total of around 300000 cattle and if the situation goes unchecked, there might be detrimental effects on the economy of this country.
He encouraged the communities to help government going forward by reporting any spotted buffalos in their areas, emphasizing that buffalos are dangerous and can kill people and that care should be exercised at all times.
The Director of Veterinary Services mentioned that they closed the above mentioned zones to allow for testing of buffalos & cattle for foot & mouth disease. The wildlife department’s Director Mr. Moremi Batshabang assured farmers and the community that they will eliminate small clusters of buffalos found within communities and translocate larger clusters to ensure their safety.