Employees of the Botswana Society for the Deaf in Ramotswa and Francistown are in a fight with management over their monthly wages, which have not been paid for the past two months.
Information reaching the Sunday Standard is that the NGO is said to be in financial problems and has not paid its staff their March and April salaries.
The NGO is alleged to have purchased a house amounting to P1.5 million instead of paying its staff members.
It is alleged that, on several occasions, the NGO threatened to fire some employees who tarnish the name of the organisation by revealing that there had not been paid and revealing that the Society is running out of funds.
It is further alleged that it is only the deaf workers who have been paid their March salaries but still not for April 2012. Other staff members have gone unpaid for two months now.
Chairperson of the Botswana Society for the Deaf, Philip Butale, was also quoted in his letter addressed to the employees saying that “we are also encouraged to spend more money on beneficiaries than on salaries”.
Most of the employees were not happy with his remarks and told this publication that the management has not officially briefed them but has sent a colleague to inform them that they will get their salaries at the end of this month (April).
The employees say the management has threatened to fire anyone who can pass the information to any outsiders as this is an internal matter.
“I fear to lose my job. I’ve not paid my rents and the owner seems not to understand my problem,” said an employee who refused to be named. “I keep asking for transport, food and rental from my relatives and now it is becoming worse because I thought this month our salaries would be credited but nothing happened.”
Another employee said that they were addressed by Pako Modise, who is an Administration Assistant, last week on Friday. He said that Modise told them not to share any information with anybody even the Labour Department.
They were allegedly told that the Labour Department would be paying them a visit and were warned to just keep quiet or else the perpetrator would lose his job as this was an internal matter.
The Labour Department did visit and made some donations to the Society but it is not clear if they were formally told that the Society is running out of funds and that the employees had not been paid.
In a letter dated 19th April 2012, The Chairperson of the Botswana Society for the Deaf, Butale, said, “I would like to air my displeasure about the letter you wrote to the Botswana Council for the Disabled office requesting for salary increment without notifying our organisation as your employer.
“Once more I want to tell you that the Board is fully aware of your problems and as I speak it is difficult to deal with you, the way you want,” read part of Butale’s letter.
The letter continued: “Also, for your own information, BCD does not have funds; they request from government to assist their member Organisations and this makes it difficult because they never know how much will be approved until the grants are released.
“We are also encouraged to spend more money on beneficiaries than on salaries,” said Butale. Another Board member, Bahurutshi Letsatsi, assured the employees that their money would be credited in their accounts end of April.
“I would like to assure you that salaries will be doubled and will come in before end of April,” Letsatsi’s letter says.
Letsatsi also told the employees that due to tight schedule, they had been unable to secure a date for meeting with the employees to address some of their grievance but promised to meet with them beginning of May.
The employee rubbished this as lies, saying the management just wanted to keep them away from airing their concerns to the relevant authority.
The Public Relations Officer of the Botswana Society for the Deaf, Oreneile Matsetse, has confirmed that workers have not been paid but declined to give details.
“I wish to point out that funds for the financial year 2011/2012 were released on time and so salaries for the twelve months would have been paid in total,” said Doreen Motshegwa, Ministry of Health, Principal Public Relations officer. “Therefore, with the current delay in the disbursement of funds to the Council for the year 2012/2013, staff of the two institutions will not have gone without payment for two months as is the case now.”
Motshegwa said that the ministry wished to, however, point out that the primary reason for the delay in releasing the funds to BCD was caused by the need for better coordination of disbursement of public funds by government (ministries) to the different beneficiaries. As a result, “various ministries have been rationalising and realigning the coordination of assistance to the NGOs”.┬á
“The exercise has now been completed and beneficiaries will now be receiving funds due to them in a better coordinated manner,” she said.