There is mounting fear that efforts at reversing the tide of the HIV pandemic in the country may be reduced to nil after the Botswana Christian AIDS Intervention Programme (BOCAIP) dismissed people charged with the responsibility of managing the implementation of various intervention programmes under its mandate.
What complicated matters even further is the fact that the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) has not been consulted with a view to determining if such a drastic decision could not be avoided.
The prevention of such an action would have the double pronged effect of saving jobs while at the same time maintaining the service lines.
A letter dated 17 May 2010, written by the National Coordinator, Irene Kwape, to one of the Center’s coordinators read, “…you are by way of this letter given one month notice starting June 1 up to June 30 to leave your job as BOCAIP cannot continue to pay for your services due to lack of funds.”
Yet what seems to baffle the mind is not whether the NGO has funds, rather than the casual manner in which the dismissals came about.
“Otherwise how do you explain the fact that most or all of these people being fired are family men and women, who have a responsibility to their loved ones? But we also have feelings so much that we find it hard to it comprehend the real motivation behind our sudden dismissal,” said one of the Centre Coordinators who preferred to remain anonymous.
The Chairman of the National Board of BOCAIP, Baatweng Motladiile confirmed to the Sunday Standard in an interview that indeed the coordinators have been dismissed, although he was at pains qualifying Kwape’s actions.
He said, “It should be noted that before the dismissal letters were issued guidance had been sought from the Commissioner of Labour on ensuring that the retrenchment exercise followed the appropriate procedures in terms of the employment law.”
Notwithstanding the guidance sought from the Commissioner of Labour, the Sunday Standard is able to authoritative state that in fact the date appearing in the last of all the mentioned dismissal letters was the same as the one on the Commissioner’s letter, namely May 17 2010.
This raised doubts as to the extent to which the Commissioner’s letter influenced the action by the national coordinator when there was actually little or no time between its arrival and the dismissal letters.
Worse still, Deputy Coordinator of NACA, Golekanye Setume, said he was not aware of BOCAIP’s situation.
Although Setume tended to tread carefully on the matter, he was honest and explicit as to the general expectation that BOCAIP was a critical partner in effecting NACA’s mandate.
“It would be unfair on my part to attempt to speak on behalf of BOCAIP, however I can confirm that NACA has not been informed nor is it in any way privy to the decision to sack its centre managers,” commented Setume.
The Deputy Coordinator further acknowledged that the impact of the action will certainly adversely affect the ultimate projected outcome of the national intervention initiatives.
On that note, Motlaadile concurred with Setume.
“What worries us more is the fact that the very programmes that BOCAIP has to implement naturally need the learned supervision and administrative skill and qualifications possessed by the coordinators. But unfortunately we can only keep those for whom donors have specifically assured funding,” Motladiile said.
BOCAIP has since the past five years been the only nongovernmental organization specifically, and on a wide scale focusing on home based care with a view to promoting adherence to anti-retroviral therapy. Again, the list of their focal areas entailed offering HIV and AIDS education, training in counseling and HIV testing as well as pre and post testing counseling.
In all centres, all the stated services were offered under the direct coordination of the centre coordinators, also referred to as centre managers, but now supervision remains under the tutelage of lay counselors.