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Friday, 19 April 2024

Soldiers in legal tussle with employer

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In a legal tussle between the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and its employees dating back to 2013, the Court of Appeal this week ruled that the aggrieved parties in the matter are at liberty to lodge a review application within 14 days.

The five appellants in this case, Kgosietsile Monei, Thato Kaisara, Molemi Matshediso, Koponyane Mokgosi, Daniel Gaobotse and Calvin Morebodi are challenging a decision by the BDF to discontinue the delinking policy introduced to upgrade salary scales. The Attorney General is cited as the first respondent while the BDF is cited as the second respondent.

[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=”show” ihc_mb_who=”1,2,3″ ihc_mb_template=”1″ ]According to the court papers in 2012, BDF introduced a de-linking policy in which holders of Diploma in Accounting Business Studies (DBAS) claim that the BDF unfairly cut-off and reduced their salaries without any written communication. In January 2013 the BDF discontinued the de-linking policy reckoned from the effective date of the policy, and in line with the respective dates of acquisition of their DABS qualifications.

They argue that in so doing BDF did not notify them nor did it invite representation from them prior to such discontinuance. The applicants claimed that without giving any reasons, BDF placed all of them on a C3 scale salary in October 2018 which was against the de-linking policy. They claim that they are entitled to payment of arrears and benefits under the de-linking policy on the basis of parity and uniformity.

The applicants were also unhappy that they have colleagues in the BDF holding the same DABS qualification who were upgraded and are paid salaries in terms of the delinking policy. The applicants also stated in their papers that since the discontinuance of this policy, there have been several court cases by others like them to compel the BDF to restore it.

They claim that the matters that went before court were adjudged against the BDF in favour of restoration of the policy. The applicants feel that the conduct of the BDF is unfair as it recently paid other officers who had similar circumstances. They are accusing BDF of being selective in treating the issue.

The applicants further assert that in terms of conditions of service governing their employment, they are entitled to progress from one scale to the next every two years subject to satisfactory performance and feel that they have all performed as expected since January 2013.

Their prayer is for the court to order the BDF to pay them salary scales under the delinking policy of 2012. They are also pleading with the court to direct the respondent (BDF) to calculate and cause to be paid to the applicants’ arrear salaries and benefits at the interest rate of 10 percent per annum reckoned from the date each arrear salary became due to the date of full payment. They are also demanding BDF pay for costs of the application on the scale of attorney and client.

The soldier’s notice of appeal seeks that the decision by BDF to reduce the appellants’ salary and or exclude them from the de-linking exercise and deprive them of the accompanying allowances be reviewed.  They further seek that the BDF is directed by the CoA to restore their salaries and allowances arising from the de-linking exercise with effect from the date they were reduced or withdrawn.

Furthermore, that the court declare the failure of BDF to include those of the appellants who held the requisite professional qualifications in delinking exercise as being unlawful, irrational and procedurally irregular. The judgment was delivered by the Court of Appeal this week, through a panel of three judges; Justice Makhwade, Justice Motswagole, and Justice Nyamadzabo.

According to the judgment, the appellants in 2018 lodged an application for leave to institute review proceedings. The appellants act elicited a response from the respondents, who on 7 March 2018 filed to the same court, a notice of opposition and a “notice to raise points in limine.”  “The later document listed a number of legal issues of which it was sought to resist the application brought by the applicants and went further to object to the founding affidavit.”

It is indicated in the judgment that the applicants, despite having not been granted to file their review application, have simultaneously filed a review “that said the review had been brought before the court outside the required four months window, as is the case here, the applicants should have sought leave on Judge on good cause shown.”

In August 2018, the court granted the BDF leave to deliver an answering affidavit to the substantive review application intended to be lodged soon thereafter, and there being no compliance another extension was granted in October 2018.  The CoA points out that the court a quo erred and fundamentally misdirected itself in determining that the central issue was whether the Defence Council arrived at its decision unfairly and equitably after a sober and honest reflection of the legal principles arrived at.

“The court a quo erred and fundamentally misdirected itself in failing to take cognizance of whether each of the appellants were afforded the opportunity to make their own representations before they were removed from the delinking exercise and their salaries adjusted downwards.”

Upon hearing all the arguments by the appellants and the respondents the CoA ruled that the appeal by the appellants be upheld and the judgment of the court a quo be set aside. “The applicants are at liberty to lodge the application for review which shall be lodged within 14 days from today.”
No costs were awarded.[/ihc-hide-content]

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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