Thursday, October 28, 2021

Loss making Botswana Post haemorrhages staff and money

An employee died of a heart attack after receiving a retrenchment letter; an Industrial Relations officer was suspended for advising management against flouting labour laws; a manager was suspended for two days on suspicion that he was sympathetic to the workers union; more than a dozen staff members’ salaries slashed by up to 70% – this is the tip of a doom, gloom and chaotic iceberg presided over by Botswana Post Chief Executive Officer Cornelius Ramatlhakwane.

The Botswana Post boss who October last year ascended the top seat riding the wave of a crest now finds himself at the centre of a storm that threatens to wipe out all the credits he accrued while he was Head of Business Development.

As Head of Business, Ramatlhakwane was credited for driving the future of Botswana Post on technology and innovation through the introduction of services such as easy access payment agreements with other organisations like cell phone network providers, Botswana Power Corporation, Water Utilities Corporation and the Roads and Transport Department.

Ramatlhakwane’s legacy is taking a knock as some insiders now malign him for failing to come up with a strategic plan to take Botswana post beyond where former CEO, Pele Moleta left off.

Botswana Post retrenched 372 employees in 2013 in a ‘rationalisation exercise’ to trim down organisation and make it slim swift and modern. The rationalisation exercise was supposed to end in March this year but Ramatlhakwane has since extended it by another year sparking fears that he is trimming the organisation to the bone.

Some members of staff have already been served with letters of redeployment to outside stations in what they view as constructive dismissal.  The redeployed employees were expected to have reported to their new stations at the beginning of June.  Sunday Standard has however established that most have not yet reported to their duty stations because there was no prior arrangement for office space and residential accommodation at their new work stations.

The transfers are said to have caught many of them by surprise as they were not given enough notice to prepare for their transfers. “This is constructive dismissal. Imagine I have kids who attend school here in Gaborone but I was ordered to report for duty with immediate effect at some village far away from Gaborone”, one of the affected employees told this publication explaining that the redeployment was on a “take it or leave it” basis. Those who declined the transfers faced dismissal. An employee in the Industrial Relations department is said to have been suspended after he advised management that they were flouting labour laws. He was allegedly accused of insubordination. Head of Property and Administration, Booster Nkomba received a suspension letter on Wednesday but the suspension was lifted two days later on Friday. Nkomba was accused of being sympathetic to the Union and employees.  “They feel that he is leaning too much on the side of employees”, said an insider. Some of the employees claim that they have been transferred to take up positions that they are not trained for or qualified in. The employees also claim they have not been served with job descriptions for their new positions. Ramatlhakwane’s rationalisation has seen at least fourteen (14) members of staff salaries slashed down, with some reported to have had their monthly salaries cut down by 70 percent.

One of the affected employees who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said what Botswana Post was doing is “evil”. “How do you cut our salaries which we have committed on bank loans, school fees, rent and just our lifestyles in general”, he asked rhetorically. Other employees who are said not to be in good terms with Ramatlhakwane have had their contracts terminated without separation benefits. Sunday Standard is in possession of some of their letters of termination. Some employees have been scaled down from band 7 to band 5, worse still, without moving with their salaries. Another employee in Orapa is said to have collapsed and died of heart attack after news of retrenchment reached her. In the midst of all these, the Commissioner of Labour had advised Botswana Post management to “carry out the exercise of retrenchment in a fair, clear and consistent manner”. Sunday Standard is in possession of a letter from Commissioner of Labour, dated 12 April 2016 and addressed to Ramatlhakwane encouraging him to consult employees and give them enough time for consultation and representation. He was also encouraged to find measures to avert retrenchment and find ways “to reduce effects of retrenchment on employees”. Despite having recorded a P52million loss in the financial year 2014/15, Botswana Post is said to have set aside a whooping P12million to defend the envisaged law suits from disgruntled employees. One local law firm seems to have already started benefiting from the windfall. Sunday Standard is in possession of proof of payment remittance receipts which indicate that the law firm was paid P64, 500 on 12 April 2016 under Bill of payment reference 95681.

The law firm was again paid P250, 000.00 on 28 April 2016 under Bill of payment reference 95791. The law firm received a further P250, 000.00 on 30 May 2016 under Bill of payment reference 95976. The loss making parastatal has also spent P463, 500.00 on catering services from Boitekanelo Catering Company. Bank documents in our possession show that Boitekanelo Catering Services was paid P231, 750.00 on 26 April 2016 under Bill of payment reference EFT95779. The company was again, on 19 May, paid the same amount (P231, 750.00) under Bill of payment reference 95914. The Gaborone-based company was engaged to provide food to members of staff who were attending a retreat in Maun over the May holiday. This therefore means the company received P231, 750.00 before the retreat and the same amount after the retreat. Botswana Post had not responded to our questionnaire which we sent to Head of Strategy and Communications Lebogang Bok two weeks ago. Efforts to reach the Board Chairman Polokoetsile Motau were futile while Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo did not respond to our questions despite WhatsApp messenger showing he has received and read them.

 

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