Briefing the media, BOSETU leadership painted a gloomy picture as a litany of teachers’ complaints remains unresolved.
Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) has warned that this year’s Junior Certificate and Botswana General Certificate for Secondary Education (BGCSE) results could be worse as teachers have threatened to boycott students’ course work and invigilation in protest over money owed to them.
Briefing the media this week, BOSETU leadership painted a gloomy picture as a litany of teachers’ complaints remains unresolved. At the centre of contention is the overdue payment for teachers who participated in last year’s Junior Certificate and examination invigilation and overtime payment owed to teachers by government. “The worst crisis is coming and we cannot expect better results as long as these issues remain unresolved,” said Tobokani Rari, the Secretary General of the union.
Rari stated that teachers are not happy with the current state of affairs and their morale has hit rock bottom. Rari also revealed that the Public Service Bargaining Council (BGCSE) agreed that the government has to pay the teachers the arrears due to the employees as a result of overtime and invigilation payment.
Rari, who is also the BOFEPUSU Secretary General said government has a tendency of dictating terms when it comes to paying teachers overtime owed to them despite the Employment Act giving the employee discretion of either demanding payment in money or in form of off-days. “We are worried and not sure whether the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) will comply with the bargaining council judgement on overtime payment, and whether they will settle the arrears or not,’ he said.
BOSETU leadership stated that the enemy to Botswana’s education is the Public Service Act that was passed by parliament in 2008 and stipulates that all government employees were entitled a maximum of eight working hours a day, and that employees working beyond those hours would be entitled to overtime payments.
BOSETU Vice President Mogomotsi Motshwegwa expressed that the Public Service Act was not working in the teachers’ favour and had negative implications on the performance of the students, “Teachers will not participate in the 2015 students course work because it has implications on working hours since it is usually carried out after normal working hours.”
Motshegwa further added, “Teachers are yet to be paid their 2014 invigilation and course work yet the decision not to carry out those duties this year unless teachers are paid.”
BOSETU President Kwenasebele Modukanele said that the union will place more focus on influencing government policy going forward. Modukanele expressed disappointment over lack of engagement from government on matters affecting the education fraternity especially policy formulation. He noted that BOSETU should play a role in institutions like the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC), which is responsible for providing guidance on the country’s human resource.
Modukanele stated that BOSETU played a vital role in the establishment of the proposed Teaching Council, which will be taken to parliament for approval. The Teaching Council, if established, will regulate the teaching profession and preside over licensing those who are qualified to teach.
Graduate Volunteer Scheme (GVS)
The BOSETU Vice President also expressed the union’s displeasure with government’s newly introduced Graduate Volunteer Scheme (GVS) as he noted that it degrades the country’s education system. Motshwegwa said it is disheartening to invest a lot on students only for them to be rewarded with initiatives like GVS, which pay them a P600 a month. “Government should re-think this initiative because we are killing a generation of future leaders,” he said.
Rari laughed off the reasons and objectives of the initiative and said, if the reasons advanced by the government were genuine, they might as well question the quality of tertiary institutions in Botswana. “Tertiary institutions should produce graduates who are ready to go to work because job-shadowing should be part of the practical training that’s students gain in their industrial attachments during their course study. Must we suspect that government is covering up for the mediocre quality of graduates by trying to remedy the situation?” he asked.
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.