Farewell to Botswana’s working class as public sector trade unions are basically on death’s door. Government has written to Commissioner of Labour to cancel the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) BG News can reveal.
The decision was taken after council halted its operations when Botswana Federation of Public, Parastatal and Private Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) withdrew from the council under its BOFEPUSU Acting Jointly Agreement in May this year.
The federation announced during its Special Congress held on May 6th 2017 that the BOFEPUSU AJA had terminated its membership at the PSBC. Early last month Botswana Guardian reported that Government is working behind the scenes to de-register the council something, which the PSBC Secretariat claimed ignorance about.
Botswana Guardian is in possession of a letter in which Acting Commissioner of Labour Goitseone Kokorwe has written to trade unions notifying them of this development.
The letter dated November 1st 2017, Kokorwe indicates that the commissioner’s office is in receipt of an application for cancellation of PSBC from the Employer Representative- Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM).
The acting commissioner stated that in the application the DPSM has indicated that the PSBC is not functioning due to the PSBC Resolution that terminated the membership of Trade Union Party on the 23rd of May 2017. DPSM has also indicated that the council is not functioning due to the Constitution because after the passing of the PSBC Resolution the Constitution of PSBC makes it impossible for the admission of a Trade Union Party. Kokorwe stated that according to DPSM as a consequence of the aforementioned “the council does not meet the mandatory statutory requirement provided for under Section 52 of the Public Service Act of 2008; the council does not meet the mandatory requirement of Article 5.1 of its Constitution and the council is unable to deal with any application for admission to the council as set out under Article 6 of the PSBC Constitution” said Kokorwe. Therefore, given these circumstances Kokorwe explained that the commissioner’s office solicits views of the union who were part of the PSBC under the BOFEPUSU AJA on the matter. The unions have been urged to respond by end of this week. BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari confirmed to this publication that they have received the communication from the Commissioner of Labour. He however said the commissioner is being disingenuous for asking the Trade Union Party to make representation before her office without having attached or furnished them with the letter from DPSM to appreciate its content. “We want to know what informed such decision in detail. What we have in the letter that we received is just a paraphrased letter of what the DPSM argument is about. We would have appreciated to know how they interpreted the clauses they mentioned. “The letter does not give us all the information that we need for making presentation before the commissioner’s office,” said Rari adding that they would request that they be furnished with proper documentation or correspondence from DPSM to best inform themselves before appearing at commissioner’s office.
The secretary general revealed that they are against the cancellation of the council and the reasons advanced. Rari explained that there is a case before Court of Appeal regarding the scope of work for PSBC, which during arguments before judges the functionality of the council was raised. According to Rari the ruling might have a bearing on the functionality of the council and for DPSM to raise this point in their request for cancellation of the council is wrong. He said the court might apply its might on the existence of the council. Rari said BOFEPUSU do not agree that since BOFEPUSU AJA withdrew from the council then no other party can be admitted.
“Any interested party can apply to the council and if they meet the set out requirement they can be admitted. We do not agree with the DPSM interpretation of the PSBC Constitution. We know the intention is to kill the bargaining power that unions have which is why the Public Service Act is also being amended to dilute the powers of the unions”, said Rari. He explained that the government of Botswana has dented its image through its disregard for labour laws. He said the government wants to see unions just being entities without powers something that would negatively affect the workers. “They have killed the bargaining power and now they are going for a killer punch to kill the bargaining structure. So nothing would be left and this is regrettable. We are regressing as the country is now violating the same International Labour Laws it has ratified”.
It’s a matter of time before former BCL mine board and management face off with BCL Provisional Liquidator, Nigel Dixon-Warren and his company, KPMG over the liquidation report that he produced.
BG News has reliably learnt that former members of board and management recently met and mapped the way forward on how to approach and bring the matter to finality.
The former board and management are aggrieved that the liquidator’s report implicated them. They say the report is factually and grossly incorrect and reserve their rights on what decision to take to ensure that any report reflects accurate facts regarding the liquidation.
At the time of going to press, they were still determining the many options available at their disposal. The BCL mine and its assets were placed under liquidation in 2014 and Dixon – Warren was appointed the Provisional Liquidator.
Last month, KPMG released a 147 page report named BCL LTD- IN LIQUIDATION (UAHGB-000202-16) Report of the provisional Liquidator in terms of Section 448 of the Companies Act (Cap 42:01) dated 5th October, 2017.
Since its release, the KPMG report has been a subject of debate in many platforms. Some welcomed it while others said it has many inaccuracies and loopholes and will likely be challenged in court.
Speaking to BG News, the group’s spokesperson and former board chairman, Dr Akolang Tombale said that, “in a nutshell the Provisional Liquidator’s report is inaccurate and misleading” as it focused in the last four years and not life time of the BCL mine operation.
“The report appears and, or gives the impression that the challenges that led to the collapse of the mine happened in the last four years”. This is not the only matter where the former board and management may want to clear their names.
The other issue is with respect to Norilsk, which in its legal battle against government to recover both business and revenue lost over the sale of its Nkomati assets, has cast the net wide to include all former board and executive management members it accuses of reckless trading under the Companies Act.
On this one government appears to be taking charge as the board and management acted in the best interest of the business supervised by the responsible ministry.
On 9th October, 2017 Norilsk through its attorney of record, Collins and Newman, issued a notice to board members then led by Dr Akolang Tombale, and BCL management led by Daniel Mahupela, notifying them that Norilsk intends to take legal proceedings against them this week and that they are joined together in civil action with government, Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.
Collins and Newman states that they act on behalf of Norilsk Nickel Mauritius (NNM), Norilsk Africa Property Limited, Global Mining Resources Inc, Lax and Trading Inc, all companies in the Norilsk group of companies.
They further inform both the board and management members that at the time when they held office from January 2015 the businesses of BCL and BCL International were carried out recklessly.
In particular, BCL and BCLi entered into transactions with Norilsk- the Nkomati and Tati transactions- pursuant to which they have incurred substantial liabilities to Norilsk group of companies.
The relationship between Botswana and De Beers should be celebrated as it has over the years helped propel the country’s economic and social trajectory to greater heights.
President Ian Khama told delegates when giving a keynote address at the annual Diamond Conference in Gaborone.
De Beers and Botswana have been together since the discovery of diamonds in the late 1960s, a partnership which culminated in the formation of Debswana which is one of the biggest diamond mining firms in the world.
According to the President, it will have been a hard call for Botswana to have achieved its double digits’ growth over the years, if it were not for De Beers, a mining company which was formed by British imperialist, Sir Cecil John Rhodes in the 1880s.
“Our partnership spans over decades and I hope that it will continue to strengthen with time,” said Khama, who this Monday made his last state of the nation address before he vacates office at the end of March 2018.
Botswana’s economic growth rates have averaged just over 5 percent in the last 50 years. The two parties, have, and will continue to explore future opportunities in the diamond industry, which is considered highly secretive, especially when it comes to pricing.
The relocation of some of the key functions of De Beers from London to Gaborone three years ago is one of the highlights of the De Beers/Botswana relationship, which has in the process created jobs and the much-needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Botswana, said the President.
As part of the historic mining agreement between De Beers and Botswana which was penned in September 2011, the former was supposed to relocate sorting, sales and marketing of diamonds from United Kingdom (UK) to Botswana in a process known as aggregation.
Consequently, diamonds from all De Beers mines valued at over P80 billion, are annually sorted and sold in Botswana, creating ripple effects in many other non-diamond sectors such as tourism, hospitality and financial services.
As a corporation, De Beers has also contributed meaningfully to Botswana entrepreneurship developmental agenda. In August this year, Botswana government, through the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with De Beers, Anglo American and Debswana ‘to underpin the continued expansion of the Tokafala Enterprise Development programme,’
Tokafala is a collaborative effort geared towards promoting economic diversification and job creation in Botswana through personalised business mentoring, advisory support tailored to the specific needs of the enterprise, and facilitating access to finance and market for clients. The programme has supported more than 1,500 jobs, including the direct creation of more than 280 jobs.
This is one important initiative, which shows De Beers’ long term commitment to Botswana.
Speaking at the same event, mineral resources, green technology and energy security minister Advocate Sadique Kebonang, said the initiators of the De Beers and government partnership, should be commended for their forward looking negotiations, which has helped move Botswana from one of the poorest nations 50 years ago, to a middle income status that it is today.
“Partnerships such as this one create sustainable economic value for all parties,” noted De Beers Chief Executive, Bruce Cleaver.
Meanwhile, speaking earlier this week in the state of the nation address, President Khama noted that both the rough and polished diamonds markets are depressed. China and the United States, the two largest markets of diamonds, have not seen growths as expected in the process limiting their ability to purchase luxury commodities such as diamonds. “We do, nonetheless, remain committed to creating an enabling environment that will catalyse and sustain our diamond beneficiation initiatives and are thus formulating a new diamond beneficiation strategy, which will be concluded by the end of February 2018,” disclosed the President.
Diamonds remain the country’s biggest single exports revenue earner by far.
The Alliance for Progressives Secretary General Dr Phenyo Butale has said they will never form an alliance with “people with blood on their hands”.
Butale is convinced that news making rounds that Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President Sydney Pilane has stepped down from his position to allow for a congress re-run is all part of a grand plan by Duma Boko to bring back a clean or dry cleaned Pilane at UDC.He was responding to a BG enquiry on whether AP would join opposition coalition, UDC. He warned that Boko and Pilane have long connived to have AP President Ndaba Gaolathe ditched from the leadership of BMD and ultimately UDC. “Following the disputed Bobonong congress which resulted in two opposing factions, we approached the UDC president Boko to intervene as we strongly believed that a congress re-run was the only possible way to mend broken fences at the troubled BMD but to no avail as he was not even prepared to lift a finger in intervention,” Butale said. He finds it surprising that BMD is now prepared to go for a congress re-run after the departure of the faction that formed AP. He said this indicates clearly that Pilane will bounce back. “If that is not the case, then why didn’t Boko recommend for a congress after Bobonong straight away? He knew very well that his crony Pilane was going to be thrashed by Ndaba hence his reluctance to issue such a directive from the onset. Now that we have formed our new party, Boko orders a re-run knowing very well that Pilane will emerge victorious without any challenger. “His clean sweep win will then be used as a democratic reason for having accepted him back inside the leadership of the opposition bloc. This time around even stories that reported about his stepping down are not clearly quoting him declaring that he has stepped down for good to be an ordinary member,” he said.
When quizzed about their intentions regarding joining UDC to topple the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Butale made it very clear that AP will never form any kind of an alliance with “people who have bloody hands”. He decried that since the Bobonong congress some of his party members are coming in and out of hospitals thanks to the brutality meted on them by Pilane and his comrades Efforts to solicit a comment from BMD acting president Nehemiah Modubule hit a snag at press time as his mobile rang unanswered.
Botswana continues to be a corridor for human trafficking, a criminal enterprise whose victims are mostly women and children.
This criminal industry is one of the fastest growing within the country as traffickers try everyday to take their victims across the border to neighbouring countries and even internationally. Some of the naive victims are lured under the false promises of a better life in South Africa only to end up in prostitution rings and forced labour.
What is evident is that Botswana continues to serve as a transit route to the Promised Land as law enforcement officers continue to grapple with cases of this nature.
A similar case is currently being heard at the Francistown high court before Justice, Bashi Moesi. Three Malawian men stand accused of trying to smuggle three women, a 22-year old man and a baby to South Africa.
John Moyodi, Enock Nkatha and Gaston Kamanga are said to have acted jointly to defeat the ends of justice. Unfortunately luck was not on their side on the 11th July last year when they were busted at the Kazungula border in Botswana trying to smuggle the women, the 22 year old man and the baby.
Describing how he ended up in a conspiracy of the three accused persons, the 22 year old, Thomas Manda said that when he was at the village in Malawi he received a call from his uncle Ishmael Manda saying that he has talked to Moyodi to take him from Malawi to Cape Town.
He said when he asked how he will get past so many borders without a passport his uncle told him that he had given Moyodi money for his passport. “I left for Lilongwe and got to Moyodi’s place on Thursday and spent a night there.
“On Friday he gave me a passport and told me to study it. When he got back he told me that we will leave on Sunday he was still waiting for two guys who are coming,” Manda said. He said that he asked how they can travel when he has no passport but Moyodi told him not to worry.
To his surprise when the two men (co-accused) arrived, in the morning three women and a baby joined them when they left. He said that when they got to the Malawi-Zambia border Moyodi gave him 1500 Malawian Kwacha and said he should go and stamp the passport he had given him.
“He said when they ask questions I should give them the 1500 Malawian Kwacha. I managed to stamp without being questioned,” the 22 year old said.
Narrating his story further, Manda said they managed to escape at that border and went to the Zambia-Botswana border where Moyodi told him that if upon presentation of the passport he is caught he is on his own.
However he said that Moyodi promised that if he does not say he is with him he will come to rescue the situation. “I managed to stamp my passport without any difficulty,” the young man said adding that it was only at the foot and mouth stop at Kazungula that he was caught after crossing when officials asked for his passport and realised that it was not his.
“I was then taken to the immigration office for questioning,” Manda said.
The young man whose highest education qualification is Junior Certificate, said that when he left at the village he knew that he was going to get temporary jobs at Cape Town. “My uncle is the sole breadwinner so he asked me to come,” he said.
Giving his version of events, Detective Constable Morebodi Kagiso who was stationed at that area at the time told the court that on the date in question he arrested a woman who was carrying a baby that was crying uncontrollably on her back. He said that what made him to arrest the woman was that she was walking curiously and unsure of where she was going.
With these signs in play Kagiso said he called her to the immigration office for questioning, where he discovered that the woman had not presented herself to the immigration officials. Kagiso said due to language barrier the woman who had told him that she is Melisy kept pointing on the other side of the border but in the Botswana side.
“I asked her to produce her travelling document and those of the child but she failed to do so and kept pointing on the other side. We went there and when we were on the road we met the 1st accused and they started talking in a foreign language and I stopped them.
“When I asked him about the woman and the child he said he knew them. He then furnished me with his Malawian passport,” Kagiso told the court. He explained that when he asked Moyodi where the baby’s mother was he said she was at Sishele hiking spot in Kazungula.
Kagiso said that they then went to the hiking spot whereupon arrival Moyodi identified the mother of the baby as Sikina. “Immediately the baby ran to the mother.
When I asked her why she left the baby she said that the baby and Melisy had no travelling documents and that it was Moyodi’s instruction that they stay behind,” Kagiso explained.
Just when he thought he had seen it all it emerged that there was another woman, Mary who also revealed that their destination was South Africa. She said that Moyodi and his co-accused had promised to find them jobs there.
Kagiso said he then asked Moyodi to accompany him to find his co-accused.
“Along the way he (Moyodi) asked us to stop and called to two gentlemen who were walking along the road. I asked them who they were and they told me and gave me their Malawian passports,” the detective explained to court.
Cornelius Ramatlhakwane, the CEO of Botswana Post is the proud postman whose focus is in transforming and diversifying the postal services.
Barely over two years in office, the writing is crystal clear that his mission to take the postal services to greater heights is within reach as evidenced by the good profits the postal services has already made. Armed with MSc in Strategic Management, Ramatlhakwane is the kind of man who does not sit to enjoy the luxury of his office, but is always up on his feet leading his charges to own the transformation exercise. Clearly he must be subscribing to Martin Luther King’s philosophy that the “time is always right to do the right thing”.
Speaking to BG News, Ramatlhakwane does not mince his words; it becomes clear that he subscribes to Luther’s “When you are right you cannot be too radical, but, when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative”. He is first to show that he understands his mandate. He says the Post is part of the strategic Government initiative and consortium to both harmonise expertise, maximise resources and skills, and grow stakeholder value, especially the mere Motswana in far flung places, under a Holding Group called Botswana Postal and Savings Limited Group (BPSLG).
The latter has three (3) entities under its ambit being Botswana Post, Botswana Courier & Logistics and Botswana Savings Bank. These are however, independent entities with separate mandates yet sharing a common ground which is to bring services to the citizens. In time past these formed the singular mandate of the Post.
Having taken over in October 2015, Ramatlhakwane does not want to earn credit alone, instead he showers his predecessor, Keolebogile Pele Moleta and credits him for introducing him to the Postal Sector .“I have always sought to build on the foundation and vision that we set”.
He says true to form, perception is stronger than reality and at the heart of everything he does both with the engagement of the Board and Management teams, is to make sure that, “we build a sustainable and successful Postal business”. On assuming office, he was convinced that as a business they were at an “inflection point”, and unless they make critical decisions and take concrete steps, “we ran the risk of regression in growing this Brand – Botswana Post. The latter part of 2015 and early 2016 was a busy period across all levels.”
Excellence and growth
Ramatlhakwane’s first strategy was to become amiable. He says during the transition period, they went through sensitive moments as a precursor to the business as seen now and still building towards 2020. “I still look back and I am amazed at how crystal clear and impactful the Icon of Excellence Strategy was to everyone both locally and internationally.” At the centre of this Strategy was the realisation that Botswana Post in its traditional make up could not survive the onslaught of technology, and the fast-paced developments in people’s lives and how businesses are run in this modern age.
“We needed to assume a different posture, and also in alignment with our national aspirations”.
During the period following immediately after his appointment they undertook the SCAN - Performance Improvement and Opportunity Review - intended to inform their strategic disposition into the future.
“In my mind we needed to re-focus and recalibrate but only if we knew what we are dealing with, then would our response be better measured and definitive”. They got approval to extend by twelve (12) months the Icon of Excellence Strategy. Botswana Post has since made notable achievements among others making P500m revenue for the company, cut down cost to income ratio to 60 percent as well as become a serious player in the corporate Botswana
Fit for Growth
During the 12 month strategy extension, they introduced Strategic- Operational Themes in predetermined focus areas that promised to become the bedrock of “our success when we finally cast our new strategy. “For me the 12 months was both a personal/mental boot camp and mock session for when we finally launch the new strategy,” he said.
The 2017/18 financial year saw the business introduce the new strategy, ‘Executing Innovative Excellence 2017 – 2020’. This is an amalgamation of the work put through from the Performance and Opportunity Scan, results gleaned from the extension of the Icon of Excellence, targeted operational and strategic theme activities introduced in between and the impact of the VC Model.
This has placed the Post on a successful trajectory, becoming real competition that cannot be ignored both as a service provider and strategic co-collaborator to other players in the market. At the close of 2016/17 FY, the Post recorded a cost reduction of 52 percent compared to 2015/16, controllable costs are down by 9 percent whilst revenue is up by 7 percent.
Competition and Challenges
Ramatlhakwane says a lot remains at stake to build a convincing case of how to get the Post from the vicious circle of Government funding for some of its strategic projects. Days of cap-in-hand seeking guaranteed cash bailouts are over. “We are now operating in an environment under tighter BOCRA Regulation, and Companies Act as opposed to the old Postal Services Act dispensation, and this comes with its own requirements strategically and operationally”. There also exist challenges that are unique to the business such as a mandate that precludes them against anti selection, and being confined to towns and cities. “We operate in areas where commercially no one wants to operate at – this has its own setbacks – but we take it in our strides,” he says.
The transformation exercise has taken a great toll on the 800+ staff members, which at all times needs assurance of job security while being pushed to give their unwavering attention to customers.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is expected to soon write a letter to Swedish Government requesting to be availed all transactional information regarding the purchase of Gripens by Botswana Government.
This follows a series of engagements by the UDC with the Swedish Government through its representative based in South Africa. The UDC petitioned the Swedish government in May this year and last week UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando revealed that they had met in the morning of that Wednesday with the representative to give them an update.
He said the representative has assured them that the Prime Minister has received the petition and it is being debated. Botswana Government has expressed interest in the acquisition of the ultra-modern Swedish mode Gripen JAS 39 fighter aircraft, manufactured by SAAB. Botswana allegedly intends to acquie between eight and 12 of these aircraft. The Gripen JAS 39 aircraft is an ultra-modern and very advanced fighter, even by European standards that military aviation experts say the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) neither needs nor can afford. UDC President Advocate Duma Boko has indicated that they would be writing to the Swedish Ministry of Defence to request all details that are not classified. According to the UDC leader they would be taking advantage of the Swedish law on transparency. “In Sweden a citizen can demand any form of information from an official and that information has to be availed. An officer can be prosecuted for refusing to avail such information. So it is in this regard that we would explore this avenue to request to be furnished with information on any transaction that involves Botswana’s Government. “We want all the information regarding the buying of the Gripens as long as it is not classified,” said Advocate Boko who indicated that they would not ask for such information in Botswana because they are alive to the fact that government would not avail it.
“Here we know we would not get anything because everything in our country is classified. We are approaching the Swedish government because there, they are transparent. We know we will get such information on these transactions,” he stated. UDC wrote a petition to the Swedish Government titled ‘Botswana Arms’ race in the midst of poverty, massive unemployment and social inequality. The petition protests Botswana government’s ongoing and planned military spending. Boko stated in the petition that their plea as representatives of Botswana's political parties and civil society is for the Swedish Parliament not to approve the sale of these fighter jets to the government of the Republic of Botswana as it is not in the national interest to do so.
“Our position is that military spending must be kept to the barest minimum, and Botswana's meagre resources should be used to build better infrastructure, such as water and electricity supply, in order attract foreign investment, reduce poverty, unemployment, social inequality and reward labour productivity, especially in the public sector,” he wrote. The UDC leader observed that since 2008, with the arrival of General Ian Khama as Botswana's president, the country's national security' expenditure has been on the increase. He cited the Stockholm International Peace Research (SlPRl), which records that Botswana's military expenditure jumped from US$ 292 million in 1998 to US$ 377 in 2008 to US$ 436 in 2015 (at constant 2014 prices and exchanges rates). “According to the more recent National Development Plan (April 2017-March 2023), Botswana is planning to spend about fifteen (15) percent of its GDP on what is labeled 'Territorial integrity'. lt is estimated that about half of this will go towards the acquisition of the ultra-modern Swedish mode Gripen JAS 39 fighter aircraft, manufactured by SAAB.”
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Parliamentary candidates for the controversial Bulela-Ditswe primaries will be banking on the Court of Appeal to end their misery when it sits today (Friday).
The Bulela-Ditswe candidates for the 18 opposition held constituencies were left with egg on their face last month when the party central committee postponed the primaries to allow for the court of appeal to hear the case on participation of public servants in political parties’ primary elections.
The candidates have argued that the process of delaying the primaries will negatively affect them in terms of resources. When postponing the primaries the BDP leadership indicated that the campaigns would not be halted something, which the candidates said would benefit those with financial muscle.
Now with the Appeals court November mini session commencing today (Friday) the candidates have high expectation that the matter would be heard during this session so that the BDP will sanction the primaries to go ahead.
Government is appealing a decision of the High Court delivered on the 27th July 2017, in which the High Court held that section 5(5)(b) of the Public Service Act does not prohibit public officers from participating in political parties’ primary elections.
Court of Appeal President Ian Kirby has indicated that the court would study the court record and see if the case warrants to be heard by five (5) judges as requested by unions’ lawyers. He explained that the parties would be notified during roll call if the case has to be heard by five judges or a bench of three judges.
The union lawyers have called on the court to postpone the matter to the January session next year if it proves impossible to have five judges preside over the matter as the case raises some constitutional points. This was after Kirby indicated that it might be impossible to have five judges preside over the case.
When postponing the primary elections BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi said they treat public servants like any other Motswana who is interested in joining and being part of the BDP. He cited Article 7.1 of the BDP Constitution, which states that membership of the party is voluntary and open to all Batswana who accept the party’s policies and programmes of action and are not members of other political parties or organisations whose policies and aspirations are incompatible with those of the party.
Undoubtedly, transportation is essential for economic growth and development. Transportation refers to the carrying of people, goods and services (water, power, etc) from one place to another. However, the focus of this instalment is on public transport, specifically domestic long distance passenger transport served by buses.
Due to low private car ownership, the vast majority of citizens use this form of public transport as a principal mode of travel between settlements. Therefore, ensuring its efficiency ought to be of paramount importance.
Needless to mention, efficiency in a free market economy can only be achieved through unhindered competition between the various players in an industry. However, in Botswana, passenger bus public transport, even though it is private sector-driven and operated, is rigidly regulated by the Department of Road Transport and Safety. The department issues operating permits on strict conditions that pre-set bus fares, fixed routes and timetables are adhered to.
The imposition of uniform fares and timetables on public transport is akin to a price freeze on foodstuff and other goods. Food is arguably more critical than transport to households, yet food prices are not regulated, allowing for competition in the industry and the resultant wider choices for consumers. Regulating bus fares is therefore incomprehensive. In fact, it is the only private sector service for which prices are kept uniform.
The status quo denies the passenger bus transport system an opportunity for vigorous competition amongst operators and the resultant growth of the industry. The artificial cap on fares that is not market-driven hinders the provision of value added services because it will not result in increased returns commensurate with the additional investment. In other words, there are no incentives in the industry for the improvement of services. The lack of competition also shields inefficient operators who provide a shoddy service to passengers. Since buses are allocated time slots for departure, passengers are compelled to travel in the bus that departs at a particular time even if it is not a bus of their choice. Deliberately missing a bus because of its poor service and waiting for the next one is never a viable option due to time constraints. The absence of competition is the reason the sector has remained largely stagnant over the years - it has not even kept pace with services provided by government. As a result, the passenger bus transport service is generally substandard and characterised by poor customer care, non-observation of arrival times, breakdowns, narrow, uncomfortable seats with little legroom, lack of air conditioners, seatbelts and toilet facilities and unkempt waiting rooms with non-functioning ablution facilities.
One of the spin-offs of a free market economy is the abundance of options for customers. But this is not the case with our passenger bus service, which suggests that something is seriously amiss. Since economic activities are inter-connected, any major activity that is inefficient drags down the overall performance of the national economy, as the public passenger bus service currently does, which compromises its contribution towards sustained economic growth and development.
The long overdue qualitative growth in the sector has been artificially stifled when, on the other hand, the rest of the private sector has been growing in leaps and bounds as it reaps financial rewards from continuous improvement and innovation. Tragically, the public passenger transport industry is operating at a fraction of its full potential as it is being held back by a hostile regulatory framework that has imposed a command economy on it, inevitably leading to inefficiencies.
Although the regulatory framework may have been prudent during the infancy of the republic given the prevailing socio-economic conditions and the virtually dry national coffers, government has lost sight of the fact that public passenger transport is a profit-driven service financed with personal resources of individuals who, like any other entrepreneur in a free market economy, deserve no less than maximum returns on their investments. Instead, government continued to treat their private investments as a social service despite the huge financial risks they take in setting up their businesses. It is not the operators’ fault that government has not seen it fit to provide public passenger transport service to cater for the lower end of the market just as it does with health and education; the operators should not be victimised for this. At some point, government even scrapped the rail passenger service instead of strengthening and expanding it, with the full knowledge that the long suffering bus operators will be relied upon to step in to provide a social service.
As a way forward, government should devise a hybrid system that allows for an unencumbered, free market-driven public passenger transport service that also ensures that the lower end of the market is catered for. This would mean allowing operators to provide the service outside the current regulatory framework and to set their own fares, determine their routes and timetables as well as build their own waiting rooms.
As a result of competition in the fast moving consumer goods sector, Choppies has emerged as the dominant player followed by Sefalana. The subsequent economies of scale have resulted in lower prices for customers and improved returns on investment for shareholders. The same will ensue if public transport is liberalised and opened up for competition. The few operators that will dominate, just like Choppies and Sefalana, will eventually spread their wings to other countries.
If the government unleashes the full potential of the passenger bus service by freeing it from a restrictive, anti-free market regulatory framework, the industry will soar to heights never before envisaged in terms of efficiency, reliability, quality and employment creation.
As the curtain slowly closes on an era of tyranny and ignorance, another era is slowly taking shape; the era of Masisi. It is surely an era of mixed emotions if not outright uncertainty.
In the event that ‘magic’ happens and indeed Masisi succeeds President Khama, the fear on everybody is Masisi going on to be nothing more than an extension of the current regime. The difference would be the same; jumping from the frying pan in to the fire. I am of the strong view that Masisi would have to walk a mile and a half to convince the nation that he is exactly what the doctor ordered to ‘restore’ sanity to the country.
Personally, I have doubts. I strongly subscribe to the view that Masisi owes his presidency to chance, convenience and sheer luck. He has never proven to be worthy a penny to bet on either his intellect or policies. As far as I am concerned, Masisi has too many rivers to cross before he thinks he can get us over the Red Sea.
Once a Stooge, Always a Stooge
One of the few things Masisi has demonstrated exceptional talent on, is being a stooge. He has in the past failed beyond any remote possibility of doubt to be his own man. If any of you are of the view that I am being malicious, I challenge you to come forward and share with us at least what Masisi stands for.
Before we even confuse basic algebra to be advanced calculus, let it not escape us that Masisi has numerously failed to distinguish himself as a man of any great imagination. Be it in his parliamentary debates or other topical issues, Masisi has always allowed intellect to desert him, leaving behind, nothing but an ocean of arrogance -unqualified arrogance that is.
If I am to mention numerous failed projects under his guidance, then that would surely be malice. I take it that by mentioning his defunct flagship programme; backyard gardening, I would be over-qualifying the extent of the problem at hand. I stood unequivocally opposed to the ‘President-from-South’ thesis advanced by Masisi supporters because I found it nauseating to say the least.
The thesis is not only divisive and medieval, but most importantly, it is intellectually flawed. It is this type of overly simplistic thinking that brought us this political mess we are currently swimming if not drowning in. I believe we need a President with balls of steel to steer us from the mess that Khama and his sycophants drove this country into.
It is common cause that his appointment to Vice President was not as result of distinguished merit, but rather demerits. Besides giving a memorable kgotla lecture on the merits of bolope, Masisi has so far failed to prove his political worth. Until Masisi rises above bolope (sycophancy) and acknowledges that deeds speak louder than words, he would forever remain a stooge.
Masisi should heed Malcom X’s caution when he says, “A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.” Just like the many self-appointed, self-help gurus out there have cautioned Masisi against his personal proximity to Asian and Indian business cartels, I would also like to kindly repeat the warning. I guess, we do not have to look far to see how compromising such ‘undefined’ relationships can be.
President Zuma is a living example. He is now a tormented man. There is nothing wrong with business looking for an opportunity to flirt with him, that is just the nature of business. By nature, businesspeople would seek all possible avenues to exert influence on policy makers in order to shape policies to their favour. It is hence, morally incumbent on those in positions of power to ward off such flirtations; something that has over the decades, eluded African leadership.
As long as Masisi is not at liberty to share with us the nature of his relationship with these business cartels, the relationship will always be viewed with great suspicion. This suspicion is further increased by his newly-acquired expensive taste as symbolised by pomp and lavish ‘Camp Dubai’ lifestyle. It is not rocket science that businesspeople put their money where their mouth is.
By the look of things, Masisi is a helpless victim of the tantalising flavours in the curry-pot. Worrying but not surprising, is the fact that his arrogance is now reaching seismic proportions. May be to put it bluntly, it is reaching ‘Trump’ levels. At this critical juncture, it is safe to say Masisi still has many rivers to cross.