According to a Private Sector Development Programme report, Botswana’s tourist workers are well-paid. According to the workers themselves, nothing could be farther from the truth.
In studying Botswana’s tourism value chain, consultants engaged for the project interviewed workers in the tourism industry about their employment and salaries.
“Tourism employment represents 4.6 percent of total employ┬¡ment in the country in 2014, with a third of these jobs in the accommodation sector. There was no evidence that there was a problem with low or unfair wages,” the report says.
The consultants would definitely have reached a different conclusion if they had interviewed Botswana Hotel Catering, Travel and Tourism Workers Union officials. The union’s president, Phologo Ntswetswe, was hearing about this study for the first when Sunday Standard contacted him last Thursday.
“It is not true that we are well-paid. The starting salary for a most workers in this industry is P1200 a month but what can one do with that sum when the lowest monthly rental is P600? Generally, we get very low salaries,” said Ntswetswe adding that the consultants never interviewed union officials.
Ahead of the 2014 general election, the Botswana Congress Party candidate for Maun West, George Lubinda, said during a debate on GabZ FM that Delta’s lodges are perpetually managed by whites who are assisted by blacks. He alleged that the latter are never deemed good enough for promotion.
“When the contract of a white manager ends, he is not replaced with the black assistant. Instead, another white person – who is completely clueless about tourism management, is brought in and trained by the black assistant manager,” he said.
Sunday Standard has itself published stories that point to the fact that there is an issue with low and unfair wages. In the first, a healthcare worker at a Maun clinic revealed that some safari workers stationed in the Okavango Delta come to Maun late to fill their prescriptions because their employers would not have released them well in time.
“It is not always possible for them to come on time because makgoa ba tla a bo ba gana ba tsamaya ba re go busy,” she said meaning by the Setswana that their “white employers refuse to release them when they are doing brisk business.”
The end result was that these employees default in taking their HIV/AIDS medication which can aggravate their medical condition. The source further alleged that one employer charged employees a stiff fare to airlift them to Maun where they fill their prescriptions and back to the delta camp on what would otherwise be scheduled flights to do company business.
“The result is that practically all their earnings go towards the airfare,” the source said.
In the second matter, the management of Thamalakane River Lodge incentivised telling on the wrongdoing of other employees to such extent that theoretically, it was more lucrative to be a snitch than to focus on what one’s job description prescribed.
The Lodge paid P1200 a month but if you decided to snitch on a fellow employee and management makes good on its promise, you got more than 300 percent of your monthly pay.
“Any employee who witnesses and reports any kind of theft from any department or any employee, will receive a BWP5000-00 reward if it leads to prosecution of the crime by the employee. Employees who report to managers an incident of theft has the right to stay anonymous,” read a staff notice which addresses this issue under the sub-title of “REWARD BWP5000-00.”
Maun West MP, Tawana Moremi, has stated that there are “many labour issues from the delta.”