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Recognition of former presidents: the case of Festus Gontebanye Mogae

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

Last week we considered the recognition or lack thereof of former President Sir Ketumile Masire. This week we consider Masire’s successor, Festus Gontebanye Mogae. Just like we did with Masire, we first attempt to answer the question: who is Festus Gontebanye Mogae? To answer this question we rely on his biographical information published by the Botswana government.

Mogae, a commoner from a minor tribe of Batalaote, matriculated at Moeng College and went on to train as an Economist at the Universities of Oxford and Sussex in the United Kingdom. He took up the post of Planning Officer in 1968 and progressed to become Director of Economic Affairs. He was Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning from 1975 to 1976.

Mogae became Alternate Governor for Botswana at the International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development from 1971 to 1976. He served in various parastatal boards including Water Utilities, Botswana Housing Corporation, Botswana Meat Commission, Botswana Meat Commission (United Kingdom) Holdings, ECCO Cold Stores Limited and Allied Meat Importers Limited.

Mogae was also Director, and later Chairman of the Botswana Development Corporation, Representative of the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation, Director of the De Beers Botswana Mining Company (Pty) Limited (Diamond Mining Company), Botswana RST Limited, BamaNgwato Concessions Limited (BCL) and Bank of Botswana.

Mogae served in Washington DC as Alternate and Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund for Anglophone Africa from 1976 to 1980. He then came home to take up the position of Governor of the Bank of Botswana which he held from 1980 to 1981.

From 1982 to 1989 Mogae was Permanent Secretary to the President, Secretary to the Cabinet and Supervisor of Elections. He was appointed Minister of Finance and Development Planning in 1989. He ascended to the Vice Presidency in 1992, a position he held until 31st March, 1998 when he became the third President of the Republic of Botswana following Masire’s retirement.

Mogae was Governor for Botswana for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Member of the Joint Development Committee of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on the transfer of real resources to developing countries, Washington DC from 1989 to 1990.

He was also involved in community oriented organizations which include Kalahari Conservation Society, Botswana Society (Research Organization) of which he became President, Lions Club of Palapye, President of the Botswana Society for the Deaf as well as being Patron of Junior Achievement Botswana.

Mogae also became Chairman of the National AIDS Council which was launched 30 March 2000.     He was awarded the highest honor of the Republic of Botswana, Naledi Ya Botswana – Gaborone on 30th September 2003 and the Presidential Order of Honour of Botswana in 1989. Mogae was also awarded the Officier de I’Order Nationale D’e Cote d’Ivoire (1979); I’Order Nationale du Mali and the HATAB’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Botswana’s Tourism Industry (1997).

Mogae was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws – University of Botswana in September 1998; the Global Marketplace Award by the Corporate Council on Africa – Houston, USA in May 1999; an Honorary Fellowship of the Botswana Institute of Bankers – Gaborone, Botswana in July 1999; the Distinguished Achievement Award for AIDS Leadership in Southern Africa by the Medunsa Trust – Washington DC, USA in June 2000.

Additionally, Mogae was awarded the AIDS Leadership Award by Harvard AIDS Institute – Gaborone in December 2001; the 2002 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference Weekend Chairman’s Award –Washington D.C., USA in September 2002; the Africa-America Institute National Leadership Award – New York, USA in September 2002 and the Honorary Fellow –University College Oxford in 2003.

Adding to his awards is The Knight Commander of the Most Courteous Order of the Kingdom of Lesotho – Maseru, Lesotho in April 2004; the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) International Leadership Award –Gaborone in October 2004; the Golden Plate Award by the Academy of Achievement -New York, USA in June 2005 and the Grand Croix – Highest award in Madagascar grated to dignitaries of the Nation Antananarivo, Madagascar in June 2006.

Other of Mogae’s awards include the Pan African Tsetse and Tryponofomiasis (PATTEC) by the African Union – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2007, Doctorate of Humanity by the University of Limkokwing, Gaborone Botswana in January 2008; The Commander of the Legion d’Honneur Grand Croix of the Republic of France – Paris, France in March 2008 and Taylor and Francis Award for significant contribution to women’s development and welfare – Gaborone, Botswana in July 2008.

It is apposite that before we consider whether or not Mogae is getting the recognition he deserves we should have a cursory discussion of the achievements and failures of his presidency. I say cursory because the achievements and failures of a person of Mogae’s stature cannot be adequately discussed in an article of this sort. It requires a book.

In discussing Mogae’s achievements and failures we consider his performance in the area of politics within the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP); his performance as Minister of Finance and Development Planning; his performance as Vice President and President; his performance in the international community; his general social life and his conduct after he retired as president.

Firstly, his performance as a politician. Evidently, Mogae was more of a technocrat than a politician. This is probably because of his strong educational back ground in economics and his colorful career as a civil servant and diplomat.

The aforegoing notwithstanding, in 1994, Mogae contested in the general elections under the BDP and won the Palapye constituency. He was an active member of the Botswana Democratic Party and served in various committees of the party including the Central Committee (CC). He was Chairman of the CC’s Finance and Economic Committee, and Member of the CC responsible for Letswapo Region from 1992 to 1995.

Mogae’s political detractors blame him for a leadership style of favoritism and purging which allowed the continued existence of factionalism within the party. His detractors contend that he failed to curb the factionalism which started during Masire’s tenure. They argue that it is his kids gloves’ treatment of then Vice President Khama which further fermented factionalism within the party.

By his own admission, Mogae did not do well in introducing critical political reforms. Asked by Tefo Pheage of Mmegi newspaper in October 2015 whether he has any regrets he said “Of course yes, my failure to introduce a quota system for women to improve their political representation and my failure to scrap off our current electoral system to replace it with either proportional representation or anything along those lines to accommodate the marginalized groups.”

As reported in the Sunday Standard newspaper edition of 1st April 2007, Mogae rejected such key electoral reforms as proportional representation, direct presidential elections and political party funding though he has reportedly kept an open mind about the latter.   
 
Secondly, his performance as Minister of Finance and Development Planning. Owing to his strong academic background in Economics and his career both locally and internationally as shown by his biography, Mogae performed exceptionally well as Minister of Finance and Development Planning. Consequently, during his tenure as minister and even when he was Vice President and President, Botswana enjoyed unparalleled economic growth.   

Thirdly, his performance as Vice President and President. The highlight of Mogae’s Presidency is his prioritization of the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He was the face of the ‘Ntwa e Bolotse’ campaign which saw the establishment and strengthening of the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) and the National AIDS Council (NAC) which he personally chaired.

It is Mogae’s prioritization of the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic which led to the arrival of such international organizations as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s African Youth Alliance (AYA) project and the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership (ACHAP) which assisted the government and local non-governmental organizations in the fight against the HIV/AIDS scourge.

Perhaps the most telling of Mogae’s presidency is his decision for the government to provide anti-retroviral treatment to those that are HIV positive and/or have AIDS. At the time when such other presidents as former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, were in denial, Mogae acted decisively by ensuring the provision of free anti-retroviral treatment and supporting and partly funding the establishment of such counselling and testing centers as Tebelopele Voluntary Testing & Counselling Centre.

Mogae will also be remembered as a president who, in defence of Botswana’s diamond trade, fought against Survival International (SI)’s campaigns to label Botswana’s diamonds as ‘blood diamonds’, alleging that the real reason why government relocated Basarwa from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) was for diamond exploration and mining.

SI’s campaign, which involved Roy Sesana and the First People of the Kgalagadi, led to a court battle which though government lost with the court holding that it was unlawful for Basarwa to be relocated from their birth land, government compelled many Basarwa to relocate through disconnection of such facilities as water.   

According to an article by Dr. Botswiri Oupa Tsheko in the Sunday Standard newspaper edition of 27th January 2008 when Mogae left office in 2008, “Botswana was classified as an upper middle-income country with approximately 7000 kilometers of tarred roads, a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in 2004 of approximately US$3000, almost universal free education, 68 percent adult literacy, four doctors per thousand population, and infant mortality of approximately 58 per 1000 live births”.

Dr. Tsheko also states that “Botswana was awarded the highest sovereign credit rating in Africa by both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s in 2004. A combination of effective institutions, political stability and sound economic policies allowed Botswana to successfully harvest natural resource abundance in diamonds. Botswana has become the second largest diamond volume producer in the world after Australia, and the largest producer in terms of output value”.

While this admirable economic record cannot be solely attributed to Mogae to the exclusion of his predecessors, he played a critical role in the realization of such an enviable record from the time he was Planning Officer in the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning to the time he retired from the presidency. He indeed lived the Vision 2016 ideals which he in fact championed throughout his tenure.

At no time during his presidency was Mogae proven to be corrupt. He ruled well and avoided populist measures which are often exploited for corrupt purposes. He was, however, accused of maladministration when he granted his then Vice President, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, an unprecedented sabbatical leave and allowed him to fly Botswana Defence Force (BDF) military aircraft.     

Fourthly, his performance in the international community. Mogae was Chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers from 1992 until 1996. Mogae was also Member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Member of the Parliamentarians for Global Action based in New York and the Global Coalition for Africa based in Washington D.C.

Fifthly, his general social life. Demonstrating his value for the family as the basic unit of society, Rra Nametso is married and has children. That notwithstanding, his name was tainted by unconfirmed allegations of lack of marital peace to the extent that at some time there were allegations of an imminent marital separation or divorce.

Still in his social realm, Mogae’s reputation was tainted by unconfirmed allegations of alcohol abuse. Allegations of parental neglect especially in relation to his father, Ditlhabano Mogae, also did not do good to Mogae’s reputation. Those who attended his father’s burial claimed that his father’s home did not resemble that of the father to the state president.

Batswana came to know Mogae as a straight talker who lacked diplomacy. But, they still adored him and even today often relate the story where Mogae, during a Kgotla meeting in Mogoditshane following the demolition of squatters’ houses, took on a person making a mockery of him and said “Oo, ga o nkomanya lenna ke tla ke tlaa go ikomanyetsa…”

Sixthly, his conduct after his retirement on 31st March 2008. After retirement, Mogae continued with his fight against HIV/AIDS by chairing the NAC. He also became a champion of such issues as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered people and commercial sex workers’ rights in as far as access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment measures are concerned.

Post retirement, Mogae has also participated in peace keeping missions. Together with former Mali President, Alpha Oumar Konare and Former Prime Minister of Djibouti, Dileita Mohamed Dileita, he, in 2014, made up a team of the African Union High-Level Panel for Egypt.

In 2013, Mogae and former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, joined a team from the Forum for Former African Heads of State and Government (the Africa Forum) that mediated in the Lake Niassa border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania.

In October 2015, the Chairman of the East African Regional Bloc Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, appointed Mogae as chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) for South Sudan. He heads the commission that monitors the implementation of the agreement to resolve the conflict in South Sudan.

Post retirement, Mogae has also commented on several national issues relating to good governance, inner party democracy and the treatment of such minority groups as gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people and commercial sex workers. Unfortunately, just like Masire, this has earned him scorn from the BDP and president Khama who have blamed him for trying to rule from the grave.  

In view of Mogae’s outstanding achievements as shown above, I was surprised when I realized that there is nothing Botswana has named in his honor. I say honor and not remembrance because I believe that our heroes and heroines should be celebrated during their lifetime and not only remembered when they are dead. A life not celebrated in life is a life killed.
 
Is it not an embarrassment that there is no single road, street, stadium, school, clinic or hospital named after Mogae? Would we rather call our streets by such weird and divisive names as Ditimamolelo and Marapoathutwa than ‘Festus Gontebanye Mogae’? Would we rather name our streets and roads after foreign former presidents than our own former presidents?

Lefesto, as he is affectionately called, deserves to have something named after him during his lifetime and not when he has departed this world. So does former president Sir Ketumile Masire. And so does President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama. Queen Elizabeth II too may wish to consider conferring a knighthood on Mogae just like she did for Masire and the late Sir Seretse Khama.

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Let’s Get BPO Industry Out of its Present Limbo

26th October 2020
Majakathata “Jax” Pheko

At an economically tumultuous juncture of our country’s history as we presently are, where unemployment has become something of a Gordian Knot conundrum, a promisingly ameliorational pursuit known as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is well worth exploring as a salvavic option.

One pundit defines BPO as “a subset of outsourcing that involves contracting the operations and responsibilities for a particular business process to a third-party service provider.” Examples of BPO services, which invariably do not constitute a company’s core or primary mission, include inbound and outbound call centres, live chat, bookkeeping, web development, research marketing, accounting and finance, and after-hours call answering services. BPO is driven, fundamentally, by the imperative of cost-cutting and overrides national boundaries through the employment and deployment of technologies that make human and data communications easier, thus lending credence to the concept of the global village that is today’s world.

BPO had been in existence in its primordial form since as early as the 19th century but it was not until the 1980s that its latter-day incarnation loomed larger and the term outsourcing became part of daily business parlance. Today, every continent is into BPO, including the economic Dark Horse called Africa. The Global IT-BPO Outsourcing Deals Analysis segments BPO buyer regions into three categories. These are North and South America (42 percent); Europe, Africa, and the Middle East (35 percent); and Asia and Oceania 23 percent.

In a Third World country such as Botswana, overseas-oriented BPO is key to bringing in those paramount hard currencies besides engendering a radical turnaround in the all too dingy joblessness picture. But are we up to it folks? Have we gotten aboard the bandwagon or we are virtual spectators watching nonchalantly as the BPO locomotive streaks away at breakneck speed?

JAX’S FLASH-IN-THE-PAN SUCCESS

The extent to which BPO has taken root in Botswana is not apparent. The first time I heard of it was in August 2007, when the Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA), then going by the name Botswana Training Authority (BOTA), put it on record at a one-day IFSC-organised conference that they were in the process of developing standards for the nascent BPO industry in Botswana whilst they benchmarked with Mauritius, the UK, and South Africa. Little, if anything at all, has been heard of their progress since.

In February 2018, The Botswana Guardian reported of the newly-established Direct BPO, a fully-owned subsidiary of Mascom, which was looking to employing 400 people at the very outset. Once again, details as to how Direct BPO, whose establishment coincided with Mascom’s 20-year anniversary, has fared to date remain sketchy.

Perhaps the most spectacular case of a BPO operation in Botswana was that of Oseg, a company begun by Majakathata Pheko, affectionately known as Jax, in 2003 under the Debtsolve franchise umbrella. Oseg, which comprised of three divisions, offered customer management and financial services solutions and operated out of Gaborone and Windhoek in Namibia, where it touted MTN as its principal client. Oseg did receivable management for local financial blue chips such as Barclays Bank, FNB, Bayport, MVA, Botswana Insurance Company, Letshego, and Standard Chartered, and in due course CEDA and Mascom. It also served the Australian offshore market. Its account receivable division was the biggest in Botswana, handling over 60,000 accounts and managing a portfolio of over P400 million.

At its height, Oseg employed 150 people and had spent over P15 million on cutting edge technology and manpower training. In 2007, Oseg was nominated for Best Non-European Contact Centre at the CCF Awards held that year in Birmingham, UK, the “Oscars of the industry”.

Then in 2016, the sky seemed to have fallen. Oseg found itself saddled with an odious P4.4 million debt, with its staff resultantly trimmed to just under 50. According to media reports, Jax pointed to his own bankrollers and their partners in the alleged crime as his rather devious saboteurs. “I have evidence that powerful people in the bank and a cabal of friends both inside and outside the bank were intentionally and aggressively looking for ways to weaken Oseg, tarnish its name and diminish its value as they were in the same competing business interests, in the call centre and the factoring business,” the then youthful entrepreneur, who was only 41 at the time, bemoaned.

Jax reported the matter to NBFIRA and what came of that, not to mention the continued viability of his business, I have not been able to establish. I just hope and trust that Jax personally weathered the tempest as I have it on good authority that he is doing fairly well.

BOTSWANA MISSING OUT ON DOLLAR-DENOMINATED BILLIONS

For emerging economies, and even peripheral Third World countries, the BPO business can be something of a gold mine. According to the latest McKinsey report, the global BPO industry is valued at $163 billon and is expected to grow at $183 billion by the year 2023.

In the Philippines, BPO, which began with a call centre setup way back in 1992, accounts for 11 percent of GDP, the single biggest contributor to the nation’s economic activity. It employs 1.3 million people in over 700 outsourcing companies. One company, called Teleperformance, alone employs 47,000 people in 21 sites. In 2019, the BPO sector generated revenues of the order of $26.3 billion.

In India, the BPO sector, now 30 years old, provides direct employment to 2 million people and indirect employment to 8 million. In 2019, the BPO income overall amounted to $8.6 billon.  In Mauritius, the ICT/BPO sector contributed 6 percent to GDP in 2019, representing a key driver of the Mauritian economy. The BPO sector is responsible for 53 percent of the 27,000 people employed in the ICT/BPO superstructure in 850 companies.

According to the Economic Development Board of Mauritius, leading multinationals such as Accenture, Huawei, Aspen Pharmacare and Allianz have back office operations in Mauritius. In addition, a number of international payroll companies currently use Mauritius as a service delivery centre.

Kenya is also looking to position itself as a hub for global digital BPO, notably through government promotion schemes such as Ajira. According to the ITC Authority of Kenya, the market size for online work was estimated to be $4.8 billion in 2016 and was projected to generate $15 billon by 2020. With only 7000 people employed in the BPO industry in the country, we are talking about a modest figure though it is still brisk compared to the rather lugubrious situation in Botswana. Clearly, there are billions in US dollar terms to be had in BPO and we are missing out on these big time.

MZANZI LEAVES BW IN THE DUST

Yet it is Big Brother next door from whom we have precious much to glean as he is our immediate competitor potentially in the BPO race. Remember, if our IFSC continues to flounder to date, it is largely on account of the fact that in Mzansi, we have a formidable rival right on our doorstep.

As we speak, the South African BPO sector is valued at $461 million going by the invariably authoritative McKinsey survey. It employs 270,000 people in six cities, a figure projected to more than double to 775,000 by 2030. Of the current total staff base, 65,000 serve international clients. That South Africa has made such enormous strides in the BPO arena is meritoriously earned and not simply fortuitous. It has been voted the second most attractive BPO location in the world for three years on the trot.

The South African BPO sector is tipped to grow by 3 percent per annum over the next three years, a rate which is in line with the trends in the global BPO space. There are currently over 100 local and international BPO providers operating in South Africa, with local players in the main serving large multinational customers. The industry’s key offshore business clientele is domiciled in English-speaking countries, notably the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, with 61 percent coming from the United Kingdom, 18 percent from the United States and Canada, and 11 percent from Australia.

In June this year, the $1.5 trillion-strong Amazon announced that it would be signing up a total of 3000 South Africans to help cater to its customers in North America and Europe, which is testament to the fact that the country’s BPO market continues to make waves in the Western world. If Jeff Bizos is impressed, you can count on the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg to follow suit too sooner rather than later.

A FORGONE OPPORTUNITY TO TURBO-CHARGE THE BPO INDUSTRY IN BOTSWANA

Empowerment Africa is an organisation that boasts a business network that enables established and emerging businesses to connect, partner, and create long-term value with Africa-based projects. With reportedly 3000 esteemed contacts, it liaises with governments, major corporations, and investors to facilitate business opportunities, deliver deal flow, and provide research across its network to the Empower Africa business community.

Empowerment Africa recommends seven countries in Africa with thriving outsourcing industries. They are Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius, and Madagascar in that order. Botswana is conspicuous by its absence and that must be ample cause for concern to our Monetary Authorities, especially given that at least on paper, we are economically better off than three to four of these countries.

In 2015, Jax approached the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture and propositioned a joint partnership with Oseg in unlocking BPO potential in Botswana by looking at the public sector Debt Collection and Call Centre services for government. Jax reckoned that the total market for Receivables and Revenue collections sitting in Government and Parastatal organisations at the time amounted to over P3.5 billion, equivalent to 8% of the National Budget then. If the BPO sector was to be utilised to assist in collecting this debt, over 2700 jobs would be created.

Furthermore, considering that a typical government employee spent half the time attending to inquiries from members of the public, the exercise would result in improved efficiency delivery in government departments in addition to boosting government’s liquidity position.

This is what Jax said in a 50th independence anniversary publication in 2016 on the same subject. “Our estimations are that once all the collections work is outsourced, there is a potential to collect more than P100 million every month for the Government of Botswana.

The opportunity to create more than 2700 exists, which will help to mop out unemployed graduates and upskill them. The economic impact of 2700 jobs would support more than 15,000 people in the economy and also help to create jobs in other industries that support the BPO sector, and will stimulate the whole ICT sector. Over and above that, the outsourcing would stimulate the whole IT sector and help improve Botswana’s position as an ICT and Call Centre hub.”

Once again, I am not privy to what came of this proposition, but I am persuaded that had government acceded to it, the BPO business in the country would have quantum-leaped and we would today be waltzing on the proverbial Cloud 9 in terms of revenues generated. Even the road retarder Oseg encountered with its bankers would not have been a factor at all. As significant, we would in all probability have made it on Empowerment Africa’s short list for the continent’s pre-eminent BPO addresses.

THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF GOVERNMENT IN BOOSTING BPO FORTUNES

Granted, with the advent of the still latent E-Governance, the synergic potential with the Call Centre business is stupendous. As per Jax’s pitch to those who care to hear, “The outsourcing of the E-Governance and collections will greatly improve efficiency in service delivery in the government departments. Directing traffic and enquiries to a Call Centre would empower the BPO sector in such a way that would be able to help the public from all over the country from one central point 24 hours and 7 days week.

The Call Centres would also relieve Government of the pressure to develop brick and mortar representations/offices across the country. This would help to save billions of Pula as the public will be able to access the services from the comfort of their homes and villages. The Call Centre service would bridge the urban and rural division as everyone will now be able to access Government services and receive the same service.”

The real jackpot both to government and the broader citizenry, however, resides in the offshore market. With sales cycles in the BPO business taking up to 12 months, contracts typically run from five to seven years, which is sustained lucrativeness by any measure. It is in the direction of the overseas market that much of our energy should be focused, though wary that we do not recklessly neglect the domestic market, if we are to reinvigorate the BPO industry and get meaningful returns out of it.

Developed countries are all the more keen to outsource as one way to insulate their economies against severe hurt inflicted by globalwide economic tremors. For instance, it was thanks to offshore outsourcing that Australia so ably navigated the 2008 economic crisis. That year, IBM released a BPO report showing that 80% of Australian companies were willing to outsource from offshore companies to save 50% in expenses.

Here in Botswana, I would recommend that government be in the BPO vanguard by splashing on a whole host of catalytic factors. In South Africa, for instance, the Department of Industry, Trade and Competition devoted R1.3 billion between 2007 and 2018 to bolstering the BPO industry in one way or the other and committed a further R1.2 billion in 2019 alone, gestures which no doubt underlie the solid performance of the industry.

Even when the lockdowns were in progress, the industry was accorded essential services status so that it kept the momentum going. As if not to be outdone, the South African BPO industry body, Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA), has commendably done its part in aiding the growth of the industry by supporting skills development, sharing best practice, and providing its members with access to other business networks and associations that drive and influence the sector’s transition into the digital economy. In Mauritius, the Prime Minister himself, and not a man of lesser stature, directly oversees the BPO sector.

For Botswana to make a mark in the BPO arena, it has to build a reputation as a reliable, cost-effective, and high-quality destination for outsourced business services, attributes all of which South Africa excels in. In addition, South African BPO players provide higher-quality services owing to strength across five key areas: availability of skills, infrastructure, risk profile, business environment, and industry size. In Botswana, we will need to nurture some of these strengths with the instrumentality of government.

With the advent of COVID-19, it is of essence that traditional BPO providers build capabilities to enable rapid deployment and ramp-up of fully functional teams under crisis scenarios. Operational resilience, that is, the ability to pivot when an ordinarily disruptive set of circumstances hits, is key. South Africa demonstrated this capacity most eloquently when 90 percent of the workforce was able to switch to remote work in residential settings, when 50 percent of operations in key competing locations such as the Philippines and India came to a virtual standstill.

Lastly but by no means the least, a competitive currency is a reasonably efficacious undercutting strategy. In recent months, the South African Rand has significantly weakened against the US dollar, in which the cost of outsourcing is typically denominated, and this has enabled South African BPOs to compete more effectively with Asian offerings.

It concerns me that last year, the Pula appreciated by 1.6 percent against the SDR (Special Drawing Right), which is a compound of five currencies, namely the US dollar, the British Pound, the Euro, the Japanese Yen, and the Chinese Yuan. If that relatively ripped Pula trajectory persists, it will not help our BPO competitiveness at all Rre Moses Pelaelo.

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Cyrus Frees the Jews

26th October 2020
In 538 BC, Cyrus, ruler of the Persian Empire

Mighty Persian King ends Babylonian exile after 60 years

For all his euphoria and grandiose preparations for Nibiru King Anu’s prospective visit to Earth, General Atiku, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t live to savour this potentially highly momentous occasion. In fact, none of his next three bloodline successors were destined to witness up-close the return of the Planet of the Gods, as Nibiru was referred to in Sumerian and Egyptian chronicles.

Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC, having ruled for 43 years, missing Nibiru, which showed up circa 550 BC as we set down in The Earth Chronicles series, by a whisker. During the next 6 years, he had three successors in such an unconscionably short period of time. His immediate one was Merodach, his eldest son.

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Understanding Botswana’s trade dispute resolution framework: Litigation

26th October 2020

In Botswana, the Trade Disputes Act, 2016 (“the Act”) provides the framework within which trade disputes are resolved. This framework hinges on four legs, namely mediation, arbitration, industrial action and litigation. In this four-part series, we discuss this framework.

In last week’s article, we discussed the third leg of Botswana’s trade dispute resolution framework-industrial action. In this article, we discuss the fourth leg, namely litigation at the Industrial Court. The Act does not define the term litigation. Litigation is generally understood to mean a situation where parties to a trade dispute take their dispute to a court, in this case the Industrial Court, for determination by a judge.

Just like an arbitrator, a judge’s decision is binding on the parties though they can, of course, appeal it. However, while an arbitrator must be acceptable to both parties, a judge does not have to be acceptable to the parties. A party can, however, apply for the judges’ recusal from the case for such reasons as reasonable apprehension of bias.

Before discussing litigation at the Industrial Court, it is apposite that a brief background of the origins and evolution of the Industrial Court be given. The original Trade Disputes Act (No. 19/1982) provided for disputes to be adjudicated, inter alia, by a Permanent Arbitrator. This is confirmed in Veronica Moroka & 2 Others v The Attorney General and Another, Court of Appeal Civil Appeal No. CACGB-121-17 at para 11.

The Industrial Court replaced the institution of the Permanent Arbitrator (Dingake Collective Labour Law in Botswana 23) following the enactment of the Trade Disputes Act (No. 23/1997) which, as confirmed in the Veronica Moroka case supra, came into force on 9 October 1997.

As per Kirby JP, in the Veronica Moroka case supra, the Industrial Court’s status “as a court was uncertain and no provision was made for it to be served by a Registrar, with the usual powers and duties of such office”.

The Court of Appeal, in Botswana Railways Organization v Setsogo and Others, 1996 BLR 763 CA, remedied this defect. It held that the Industrial Court was not a mere statutory tribunal, but was, in line with Section 127(1) of the Constitution of Botswana, a subordinate court, having limited jurisdiction.

Following the change of the definition of subordinate court by Act 2/2002 to exclude the Industrial Court, along with the Court of Appeal, the High Court and a court martial, the Industrial Court became a superior court, albeit still with limited jurisdiction unlike the High Court, for instance, which has inherent unlimited jurisdiction.

Consequently, appeals from the Industrial Court were referred to the Court of Appeal. Perhaps most significantly, according to Veronica Moroka, Industrial Court judges were now, just like High Court judges, protected by, inter alia, security of tenure.

The Trade Disputes Act was further amended and replaced by the Trade Disputes Act, 2003 which commenced on 6 April 2004 as Act No. 15 of 2004. Section 16(8) of this Act provided for the appointment of the Registrar and an Assistant Registrar, but still had no section clothing them with specific powers.

It, through section 20(3), also bestowed, in the Court, the power to hear urgent applications and, in terms of section 18(1), the power to grant interdicts, thereby remedying the defects identified in Botswana Railways Organization v Setsogo & Others supra, but it still had no provision dealing with writs of execution and sales flowing therefrom.

In terms of section 18(1) of the Act, the Industrial Court’s jurisdiction includes the power to hear and determine all trade disputes except disputes of interest as well as, in terms of section 20(1) (b) of the Act, the power to interdict any unlawful industrial action and to grant general interdicts, declaratory orders or interim orders.

In terms of section 20(1) (c) of the Act, the Industrial Court is also clothed with the power to hear appeals and reviews of the decisions of mediators and arbitrators respectively. It, in terms of section 20(1) (d) of the Act, has the power to direct the Commissioner to assign a mediator to mediate a dispute if it is of the opinion that the matter has not been properly mediated or requires further mediation.

In terms of section 20(1) (e) of the Act, the Industrial Court also has the power to direct the Commissioner to refer a dispute that is before the Court for arbitration. In terms of section 20(1) (f) of the Act, it has the power to refer any matter to an expert and, at the Court’s discretion, to accept the expert’s report as evidence in the proceedings.

The Industrial Court also has the power to give such directions to parties to a trade dispute provided the object of such directions is the expedient and just hearing and determination or disposal of any dispute before it.

In terms of section 20(2) of the Act, any matter of law and any question as to whether a matter for determination is a matter of law or a matter of fact is decided by the presiding judge. In terms of section 20(3) of the Act, with respect to all issues other than those referred to under section 20 (2), the decision of the majority of the Court prevails.

Where there is no majority decision under section 20 (3), the decision of the judge prevails. In terms of section 24(2) of the Act, any interested party in any proceedings under the Act may appear by legal representation or may be represented by any other person so authorised by that party.

In terms of section 28(2) of the Act, a decision of the Industrial Court has the same force and effect as a decision of the High Court, and because, unlike South Africa, Botswana has no Labour Appeal Court, decisions of the Industrial Court, just like those of the High Court, are, in terms of section 20(5) of the Act, appealable to the highest court in the land, that is, the Court of Appeal.

The Trade Disputes Act went through another amendment in 2016. Section 14 of the Act ensures the continuation of the Industrial Court. It outlines its functions as the settlement of trade disputes as well as the securing and maintenance of good industrial relations in Botswana.

In terms of section 15(1) of the Act, the judges of the Industrial Court are appointed by the state President from among persons possessing the qualifications to be judges of the High Court as prescribed under section 96 of the Constitution.

In terms of section 15(2) of the Act, these judges are headed by the President of the Industrial Court designated by the state President from among the judges.

In terms of section 15(4) of the Act, a judge of the Industrial Court who is not a citizen of Botswana or who is not appointed on permanent and pensionable terms may be appointed on contract basis and is eligible for reappointment.

In terms of section 15(5) of the Act, Judges of the Industrial Court sit with two nominated members, one of whom is selected by the judge from among persons nominated by the organisation representing employees or trade unions in Botswana and the other selected by the judge from among persons nominated by the organisation representing employers in Botswana.

In terms of section 15(6) of the Act, where, for any reason, the nominated members are or either of them is absent for any part of the hearing of a trade dispute, the jurisdiction of the court may be exercised by the judge alone or with the remaining member of the Court, whichever the case may be, unless the judge, for good reason, decides that the hearing should be postponed.

In terms of section 18(1) of the Act, An Industrial Court judge vacates office on attaining the age of 70 years, provided that the state President may permit him or her to continue in office for such period as may be necessary to enable him or her to deliver judgment or to do any other thing in relation to proceedings that had commenced before him or her.

In terms of section 18(2) of the Act, in accordance with the provisions of the proviso to section 96(6) of the Constitution, a person appointed to act as an Industrial Court judge vacates that office on attaining the age of 75 years.

In terms of section 19(1) (a) and (b) of the Act, an Industrial Court judge may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his or her office, whether arising from infirmity of body or mind, or from any other cause or for serious misconduct.

In terms of section 19(2) of the Act, the power to remove an Industrial Court judge from office vests in the state President acting in accordance with the procedure provided under section 97 of the Constitution for the removal of High Court judges.

*Ndulamo Anthony Morima, LLM(NWU); LLB(UNISA); DSE(UB); CoP (BAC); CoP (IISA) is the proprietor of Morima Attorneys. He can be contacted at 71410352 or  anmorima@gmail.com

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