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BOPEU, Manual Workers divided over BURS strike

Strike at own risk – Motshwarakgole

The national strike by the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) has great potential of widening the rivalry between the public service unions, especially the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and the National Amalgamated Local, Central government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALGPWU).

When employees of the BURS who are members of BOPEU went on strike this week in protest of low salary increment by the employer, those of the NALGPWU did not join them as they are awaiting the negotiated salary restructuring to take place.

BURS took BOPEU to court on Thursday morning in an effort to stop the strike. Before the Industrial court, BURS pleaded for a thirty day period before the employees could put a notice to go on strike. According to them it is a legal requirement that the Union wait for thirty days after the Director of Labour declared that the two parties had failed to reach a settlement.

However BOPEU contended that it did not make sense for it to wait that long when its members were suffering and it was clear that the employer had no intention to change its stand. BOPEU told the court that their members have not been receiving the 6% salary increment offered by the employer for the last three Months as they wanted more. The court was told that the BOPEU members who work for BURS were more than ready to go on strike so as to demonstrate their rights and force the employer to reach a settlement with the union.

By Thursday evening, the Industrial court had issued a ruling in favour of the Union and some BOPEU members who were on duty immediately abandoned their work stations and took to the streets.

On Friday morning BURS declared that some of its services including at the borders and airports would be disrupted or slower than usual.

“The BURS Management apologises to its customers for the inconveniences that the industrial action may cause and assures the public that it is doing all it can to expeditiously restore normal services,” the BURS Management announced on Friday morning.

The move by BOPEU is viewed as a timely scheme for them to claim credit for the results of the salary restructuring which is ongoing within BURS-the restructuring is expected to lead to better salary scales. The restructuring is a result of negotiation between BURS and NALCPWU.

NALCPWU’s Secretary for Labour, Johnson Motshwarakgole confirmed that BOPEU never asked for their support when they went on strike. He could not disclose whether members of his union would have gone on strike or not as he said they had not discussed the issue with them.

“We do not have to look at this issue narrowly. We (NALCPWU) and BURS have appointed a task force which is working on the restructuring of the employees’ salaries. I have been told that the report of the task force has been completed and that as we speak, BURS is working on profiling the employees. The final report is expected this month of July,” explained Motshwarakgole.

The restructuring, according to Motshwarakgole is expected to cause BURS to increase its employees’ salaries by twenty percent. Motshwarakgole maintains that his union, together with BURS have agreed on the structure which would culminate into better packages for employees and they have since agreed with BURS to “cushion” their members with a six percent salary increment while they waited for the exercise to be completed.

“We have negotiated better salary increment for our members. All our recent negotiations led to twenty percent salary increment. Take for example BTA, HRDC and UB, they all got a twenty percent salary raise owing to our negotiations,” Motshwarakgole said before adding that, “You should also remember that we negotiated for BURS employees to get bonus payments at the end of every year. The agreement is that a small percentage from the annual collection should benefit the employees because they collect Millions of Pula every year for the employer,” Motshwarakgole added.

 Nonetheless, he said the NALCPWU was in solidarity with BOPEU and supported their course of action. However he stressed that, they have not encouraged their members to join the strike because if they do it would be betrayal to their agreement with BURS over the restructuring exercise.

“We cannot stop anyone from going on strike. It is an individual choice more so that it is a no work no pay kind of action,” Motshwakgole added.

Meanwhile BOPEU reports that since the beginning of the strike Thursday evening and the announcement of the intention to strike, they are receiving new members into their union.

As the unions take a position of “one man on his own” fears are rife that the two parties who are members of the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) may never smoke the peace pipe.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

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.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

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.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

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.”

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