There is an on-going debate in the local business circles on the importance, or lack thereof, of recognising certain gazetted holidays.
Companies in bigger economies like South Africa have admitted ignorance of certain holidays, arguing such brought drawbacks to their businesses and, therefore, choose to treat them as normal working days.┬á┬á ┬á┬á
Botswana uses the Christian calendar, which government departments and private companies are supposed to comply with.
This is despite the fact that some business owners might be from different religious backgrounds.
On these holidays, all workers, regardless of their religious backgrounds, are not expected to come to work. This has been the common complaint against some holidays by non-Christian workers.
However, it seems like a number of businessmen find Botswana‘s holidays an inconvenience because they lose out on account of the holidays.
For retailers like Choppies, which has 46 branches around the country, holidays are the best days to make money. Estimates show that one branch of the retail giants can make up to P6O OOO on a good day and about P4O OOO on a bad one.
A Pick’n Pay manager said they close shop on December 25 every year, adding that their study on shopping trends showed that Christmas was the worst day to be open.
He added that they use Christmas as the time to give staff time off since most of them prefer to work on other holidays so that they can get double pay.
“By law, we are forced to pay workers double for working during holidays, and there are only 8 paid holidays on the calendar so we don’t mind paying double because the benefits exceed the costs by far,” he said. ┬á
Kgosietsile Mariri, Managing Director of C’est Magnifique Dry Cleaners and Laundry Services, is concerned that the way holidays are structured in the Botswana calendar inconveniences his business. When production is halted, he loses money, he said.
The young entrepreneur personally does not recognise a holiday like Ascension Day as he feels that it encourages the spirit of laziness amongst workers.
“This system whereby there is a holiday on Thursday and on Friday people are expected back at work encourages laziness amongst workers because it slows down their effectiveness,” said Mariri.
“Personally, I feel that government should come up with some sort of compromise. For example if Ascension Day is on Thursday then workers can be given Friday off or something to that effect,” he suggested. ┬á┬á
However, Mariri lets his employees go on holidays even though it impacts negatively on his operation located in Maruapula. He said that the survival of his business is dependent on government striking a balance into the holiday issue.
“Even if that means doing away with certain holidays, it really weighs down on my business, especially when I do not recognise the importance of the day,” he added.
Loago Raditedu, the Executive Director of Botswana Export and Manufacturers Association said that from his point of view, BEMA has no problems with the country’s holiday calendar because the association is not a money making entity and therefore doesn’t make any losses on those particular days.
He said that his organisation recognises all the gazetted holidays and makes it a point to let their employees go for all the holidays on the government calendar.
“Maybe some of our members might complain because for them holidays bring losses to their business, but to us holidays are days where employees can take time off and it doesn’t affect the association in any way,” said Raditedu.