Even though the two federations are still fighting about who reported the country to International Labour Organisation (ILO), Botswana has made it to the top 24 which violate ILO Conventions. Botswana Federation of Public, Private Sector Unions (BOFEPPUSU) and Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) are currently attending the ongoing ILO meeting in Geneva, Switzerland but they are bickering over who reported the matter to ILO.
Last month, Botswana made it to the last 40 countries earmarked to appear before the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) during the ongoing 106 session of ILO. The listing of Botswana comes after it violated Convention 87 of the ILO by enacting the controversial Trade Dispute Act that banned the right to strike to a large portion of workers among them diamond sorting and cutting, teachers, immigration and customs services.
Minister of Labour, Tshenolo Mabeo is expected to appear before the committee next week when Botswana’s case will be called for hearing. The report has raised several issues such as right to organise for prison service, which the government currently prohibits because they are part of the disciplined forces.
“The Committee observes that while the prison service does form part of the disciplined force of Botswana together with the armed forces and the police (Article 19 (1) of the Constitution), each of these categories is governed by separate legislation, the Prison Act, the Police Act and the Botswana Defence Force Act and the Prison Act as a separate statute does not appear to provide members of the prison service with the status of the armed forces or the police,” states the report verbatim The Committee also requests that government should take the necessary measures, including the pertinent legislative amendments to grant members of the prison service all rights guaranteed by the Convention.
On the controversial issue of some cadres being declared essential service by Bill No. 21 of 2015 of the new Trade Disputes Bill, the government has been requested to take necessary measures to amend the draft Trade Disputes Act to reduce the list of essential services. Malaysia appears first in the list while Botswana appears at number 20.
There are eight African countries on the list. In their report BOFEPUSU had written to ILO that the Bill will make it more difficult to engage in collective bargaining and exercising their right to strike. The Bill was last discussed in Parliament on July 4th 2016. The response to the Bill was mixed, with the opposition Members of Parliament and some ruling party MPs opposing it. For his part, leader of Opposition Duma Boko slammed the Bill on the basis that it takes away the right to strike.
Other MPs considered that teaching, services, Diamond and Cutting services were not essential. The Committee had also previously requested the government to provide information on the progress made in relation to the amendment of section 48B (1) of the Trade Union and Employers Organisation Act (TUEOA).
It grants certain facilities only to unions representing at least one third of the employees in the enterprise and Section 43 of the TUEO Act that provides for inspection of accounts, books and documents of a trade union by Registrar at any reasonable time. The Committee notes the government’s statement that the amendments process of the TUEO Act is ongoing and that the social partners have submitted their proposals for amendments,” reads the report.
It added, “The Committee trusts that, in the framework of the ongoing amendment process of the TUEO Act and in consultation with the social partners, the abovementioned provisions will be amended taking fully into account the Committee’s comments. The Committee requests the Government to provide information on any developments in this regard and to provide the text of the amended TUEO Act once adopted.”
The Committee has also requested Botswana to provide updated information on the steps taken to amend the Employment Act of 1982, including measures taken to ensure that section 23 (d) of the Employment Act expressly prohibits discrimination based on “political opinion” and “national extraction” and covers all aspects of employment and occupation, including recruitment and terms and conditions of employment (and not only termination).
“The Committee repeats its request to the Government to provide information on the application in practice of section 23 (e) of the Employment Act, including any interpretation by the administrative or judicial authorities,” states the report. BFTU filed a report with Committee of Experts on Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) in September 2016.
“Our report was considered by the CEACR in November 2016 and is captured by the 2016 CEACR Report,” said Secretary General Gadzani Mhotsha. In March 2017 BFTU was among the African Trade Unions who gathered in Grand Bassam, Cote d’Voire to discuss the short-listing of African countries to appear before the CAS during the 2017 ILC.
“We successfully managed to have Botswana listed among the top countries in Africa. It is this ranking that has influenced the social partners in the ILO supervisory system to agree to have Botswana listed among the top 40 rogue states.
The list of 40 is a preliminary list which will have to be trimmed down to 25 by the CAS,” he said adding that only the last 25 countries will have to appear before the CAS. “BFTU believes it has a very strong case against the Botswana Government and we are positive that Botswana will make the last 25,” said Mohotsha.
Convention 87 which Botswana has contravened is on the fundamental rights of workers on the freedom to associate and the right to organise. This includes their right to organise their administration and activities.
The new TDA has banned workers from taking part in strike action in furtherance of their collective bargaining efforts, thus taking away their fundamental right. “We are grateful to those who have worked with us and continue to do so especially our colleagues from Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and the support we have been getting from international organisations such as Southern African Trade Union Coordinating Council (SATUCC), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the ILO’s Decent Work Team and other sister federations in the region,” said Mhotsha.
Adirective by former Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo last year to have three homesteads squeezed inside the Francistown Spaghetti intersection relocated have finally materialised.
Both home owners have been given new plots at Coloured location. Mabeo had pointed out that the lives of the three families would remain in danger from accidents due to their proximity to all the interchanging roads and ramps of the spaghetti. Although the project director Carthage Matlhaga had tried to convince the Minister of their decision and reasons to leave the three homesteads inside the construction perimeters, the minister was not convinced as he stressed that if anything happens to any of the concerned homes, his ministry would shoulder the blame.
When Northern Extra visited the three affected families, they were all smiles as they revealed that they have been given plots at Coloured location even though they have not yet been taken to view the plots. Rose Bontshitswe who initially complained that she was not prepared to be relocated to a place far away from Nyangabgwe hospital was satisfied with the location she will be relocated to since it is near to the hospital unlike Gerald Estates where they were initially to be relocated.
“They have so far given me a house number but I have not been taken to view the plot because they are still making assessment as how much they will pay for our looming relocation. As a Social worker dependent, I would prefer the Social workers not to give me money but build me a house instead,” Bontshitswe said beaming with happiness.
Annah Moseki explained that their relocation was taking forever. She complained that since Dineo cyclone she has been literally living inside a pond as all the water flowing down from the intersection pass through her yard exposing her family to unnecessary danger.
“I am happy to have been relocated away from this dangerous place even though I would have preferred to be moved to Gerald Estates where there are a good number of future developments. I am always at loggerheads with the contractors as they say that I disturb them by digging a trench on their site to divert flowing water from causing more damage inside my yard. My prayer is for the g final assessment to end,” she said.
Minister of Transport and Communications, Tshenolo Mabeo has said efforts are still under way to obtain a commercial banking licence for Botswana Savings Bank. BSB currently operates with a development banking licence and its merge with BotswanaPost has long been overdue.
Responding to Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central, Phenyo Butale’s inquiry last week, Minister Mabeo confirmed that BSB has not obtained a commercial banking license yet, “but I can confidently assure this House that plans are at an advanced stage to submit an application to Bank of Botswana (BoB) for consideration before the end of this year.” He added that it has come to the attention of the government that there are some Batswana who are unable to bank, therefore talks with BoB are still underway.
Meanwhile, at a recent BotswanaPost media brief, the chairman Polokoetsile Motau highlighted that, for “BSB to be granted a commercial banking licence, they will have to merge with a profit making entity.
Therefore we have to be profit making as BotswanaPost.Motau could not be drawn to discuss more details on the merger progression, but just said efforts are still underway. On the other hand, BotswanaPost, which has been on its transformation journey, has finished the year 2014/15 with a total loss of P47million. The BotswanaPost expects modest revenue for the 2015/16 financial results, which are understood to be at an audit level and will be released soon. Giving an update on the bank’s performance over the last five years, Mabeo
indicated that BSB has consistently delivered good results over the period. He told parliament that, “for the period spanning from 2011 to 2015, BSB profits increased from P4 million to P20 million. Its revenues increased by up to 64 per cent from P52 million to P85 million. At the same time, BSB has more than doubled its asset book from P606 million to P1.57 billion.”
Meanwhile, as part of the Botswana Savings Bank and Botswana Post merger, BSB has developed an overarching strategy that defines a transformation phase taking into consideration new value proposition for customers. BSB has undertaken initiatives to turn the business around such as the successful completion of a restructuring project in 2014 to align human resource planning to the current operating model; the bank launched three new products namely Debit card, Express loan and Lecha Loan. The bank is enhancing its technological systems as well by implementing a multi-channel network that embraces other self-service options like Point of Sale (POS), ATMs and co-branded branches within selected post offices.
The aim is to turn the business around to drive the financial inclusion agenda with the intention to provide customer-centric financial services at affordable costs to disadvantaged and low-income segments of the society. Amongst its many initiatives to increase its channels, BSB has recently successfully rolled out ATMs on its network of branches for faster and easier access to financial services. Mabeo revealed that the project will be officially launched at the end of this July.
The Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo this week said his ministry has developed a Broadband strategy in an effort to address poor Internet services in the country.
Addressing parliament this week, Mabeo said this Strategy provides a holistic and coordinated approach to the implementation of the ICTs ecosystem in the country. “This strategy has been developed with a view to achieve long term strategic outcomes. The overall vision of the Broadband strategy is to connect every citizen, business, communities to a high speed broadband infrastructure at affordable prices.”
Mabeo added that the monitoring of the strategy action plans and deliverables are regularly checked and evaluated. Moreover, he explained that the issue of the quality of Internet service was complex since there were many factors involved. Mabeo said some of these factors included limited data speed and second generation (2G) mobile network, which is widely available through the country. “There is also limited coverage of Third generation (3G) and Fourth Generation (4G) mobile networks, which offer a better Internet experience,” he said.
Moreover, the Minister added that there was limited access to networks, which connects customer premises to the telecommunication network. “Customers (hospitality facilities, residential and other businesses purchase lower data packages and share it among many users.” The minister said another reason for this problem is that some Public telecommunications operators and service providers experience congestion in Internet capacity that they have procured from wholesale providers.
“In order to keep on monitoring the quality of service to ensure the customer gets value for money the Botswana Communications and Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) has acquired a quality monitoring tool.” In addition, Mabeo said operators will use this tool to check the quality of services. “BOCRA will also continue with consumer education and awareness on issues of Quality of Services.” The minister was responding to questions from the MP for Selebi Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse who wanted to know whether, Mabeo was aware of concerns over slow and erratic Internet in the country. Furthermore, Keorapetse wanted to know what caused this slow and unreliable Internet and when the issue will be addressed.
Transport and Communications minister, Tshenolo Mabeo has challenged the fixed and non-fixed telephony companies to improve the quality of services they offer to the public.
The minister, who was the main speaker at Orange Botswana's 18th Anniversary celebration at GICC on Tuesday, made it clear that government is ‘very much concerned with the quality and reliability of these services’. “You need to up your game,” he stressed, this time around not reading from a prepared speech. Telecommunications services are important for economic growth and employment creation, hence such services are supposed to be reliable.
As one of the consumers of such services, government has not folded its arms but recently encouraged Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) to conduct regular customer satisfaction surveys. The first survey was completed late last year (2015). “It is hoped that this survey will not only incentivise operators to ensure exceptional customer experience, but also provide constructive feedback and an opportunity for BOCRA to understand the issues and come up with ways to improve regulator capacity for improved services,” stated Mabeo at the event which was attended by captains of the industry, lawmakers and heads of missions.
Meanwhile, the minister told attendants that, as a result of the liberalisation of the telecom- munications industry, there has been marked improvement in ICT connectivity in the past 18 years. This has brought about the advent of technologies such as mobile broadband (3G/4G) internet, innovative and converged services for home and businesses.
Mabeo further said mobile technology continues to expand horizons by providing a tool to facilitate efficiencies particularly in digital and financial inclusion. The minister also com-mended Orange on its 18th anniversary and their contribution to economic growth. “We note your successful journey and achievements and we are confident that as the company matures, we will continue to see improved quality of network and network reliability,” he said.Speaking at the same event, Orange Botswana
We note your successful journey and achievements and we are confident that as the company matures, we will continue to see improved quality of network and network reliability,” he said. Chairman, Satar Dada, said despite challenges, the company has made strides since it opened its doors some 18 years ago. “I am proud to say that for the past 18 years, Orange Botswana has been connecting families, friends and businesses, making a significant impact to the lives of Batswana,” said the motor magnate. Orange Botswana is part of French telecommunications giant, Orange.
Transport and Communications minister Tshenolo Mabeo has promised that the Universal Access and Service Fund (UASF) project will create jobs especially for ICT graduates.
Speaking this week at the launch of UASF project, minister Mabeo emphasised that implementation of the UASF project will help bridge the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) gap in the country especially in remote areas. “UASF will create jobs especially for ICT graduates as this is in their line of work, first priority for tendering will be for them, as a host ministry I will personally make sure that they own the programme” said Mabeo. He said that the project should leave significant strides between now, 2018 and beyond.
UASF is a collaborative measure between local communication industry players and Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA). UASF’s core objective is to facilitate an enabling environment for the development and use of communication infrastructure and services in Botswana. Mabeo further said because UASF will also focus on provision of ICT in remote areas, preference will be given to locals in that area for tenders. He however advised that team work between all the stakeholders is vital and that they would be closely monitoring the project. Mostly different captains of the Communications industry, which among others include Botswana Post, Mascom and Botswana Fibre Network, provide funds for the UASF. The Fund will be administered through an independent Board of Trustees.
The function of the UASF Board is to supervise, monitor and approve the UASF programs, its implementation and activities, and monitor its financial activities in a transparent manner. Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture (MYSC) are also partners in the project to ensure it succeeds. Assistant education minister Moiseraela Goya pointed out that UASF will aid in transforming the education sector. He said that the use of ICT will translate in pushing the technological strategy phase in education forward.
“This is a welcome development especially that my ministry will benefit a lot, by installing computers and teaching students on matters of ICT we are preparing them for global competition at grassroots level,” said Goya. MYSC also plays a pivotal role in the project as explained by Minister Thapelo Olopeng. He urged the youth to get ready as he plans to advocate for their major participation in UASF project. He said that it was time for the youth to get on board and take lead in having the project flourish to transform villages using ICT. The UASF board will administer provision of incentives to organisations, individuals and business entities wishing to provide public ICT and Broadband Internet services through a tender process.
The slow connectivity of internet in Botswana has been blamed on the frequent power cuts that have besieged the country in the recent years.
Participants at the Information Communications Technology (ICT) Pitso which was held recently decried the persistent slow internet connectivity despite efforts by government to upgrade connectivity with Eassy and WACS submarine cables. It is said that this has impacted negatively on the businesses that operate through internet. In an interview regarding this matter, the Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo acknowledged the problem caused by the frequent power cuts. He said that the challenge together with that of accessibility to land has been identified as the most challenging for operators.
He cited an example of the case between Bakgatla and local mobile network provider Mascom after the latter’s tower was destroyed.“Power cuts have caused so much inconvenience to the ICT sector because when once electricity goes then internet connectivity becomes very slow. But it is not the only problem as operators are also challenged to acquire land to put their transmitters to expand broadband. But we are in discussion with the Minister of Lands and Housing and other stakeholders to get these issues resolved. We want where possible, some land reserved for them,” he said.
He said that all the three operators have been forced to fork over P250 million each to get power generators and this has affected their rollout plan to increase internet connectivity. He also stated that through the Botswana Fibre Networks (BoFINET) government is helping in developing a fibre infrastructure which is expected to improve fibre network and competitiveness in the downstream telecommunications market. It is also expected to increase internet access by households. Mascom Wireless and Orange Botswana have introduced superfast broadband access technologies ranging from 2G, LTE to 4G. Both are intended to help increase speed connectivity to internet.