Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU), Botswana Informal Sector Association (BOISA), Thusanang Bagwebi Association, Gaborone Hotel (GH) Management and a team representing Hawkers trading on a disputed piece of land at the Gaborone bus rank have reached a consensus.
The Hawkers and Gaborone hotel have been in dispute over the said piece of land for over three years and the and over the past week the dispute had intensified and escalated through the media & other social platforms. Amid that dispute though, the two parties were able to engage in a civil discussion in an endeavour to focus on the facts of the matter to find common ground and subsequently reach an amicable solution
Following the media statement issued jointly by BFTU and BOISA on 6th May 2020, the GH Management reached out to the Federations and the hawkers associations and a three parties meeting was scheduled Tuesday 19th May 2020. However, due to other matters that would later surface, the said meeting and the subsequent one for Friday 22nd May were mutually postponed to the 25th May 2020.
Incidentally, on the 22nd and 23rd May 2020, there were confrontations involving affected hawkers, GH and the Botswana police. The confrontation ultimately led to the illegal removal of the fence that Gaborone hotel management had erected on a piece of land. Some hawkers and their leaders were arrested for this act.
Nevertheless, during the two days meeting held between the federation, associations and GH Management there were some established facts that came up which assisted in the resolution of the impasse.
Gaborone hotel management were able to even share documents that supported their position that the disputed piece of land belonged to them. The association of hawkers that has been using the land admitted that there had been prior engagement with GH dating as far back as September 2017.
It also surfaced that the delay by Gaborone City Council and department of Lands to clarify GH’s ownership of the land from 2017 had exacerbated the matter. However, the GH Management provided the lease agreement which proved ownership of the land and the information was confirmed by the department of land, anti-corruption unit, on the 26th May 2020 as valid.
It surfaced that the delay by Gaborone City Council and department of Lands to clarify GH’s ownership of the land had exacerbated the dispute. GH proved that they had engaged the department of lands and GCC for the past three years in an effort to avoid using force and legal proceedings against the hawkers. The hotel management even ignored an advice by Botswana Police Service on the 22nd May that they lodge legal cases against hawkers. It was only after the hawkers vandalised and completely removed the GH erected fence that the management resolved to file a criminal case against them. The case was filed on 23rd May
It is worth noting that even after the case was filed, the two parties continued to engage each other for the purpose of resolving the dispute. Eventually, the two parties were able to find common ground, leading to an amicable solution of the matter. In their consolidated agreement, the parties duly agreed to the following, that;
a.) The hawkers shall be given three (3) months extension to use the piece of land and, that the period agreed commences from 26th May 2020.
b.) The three months does not include any lock down period that the government may impose before end of the agreement.
c.) Parties agreed to the amicable closure of all reported cases at both the Botswana Police Station and high court.
d. Parties commit to continue dialogue and consultation regarding the intended amicable evacuation of the plot and or any other arrangements that may be mutually agreed on.
BFTU and BOISA applaud the good faith that transpired during the bargaining and negotiation and the efforts and commitment by GH and the investor - Mr Bipin Aswathi - to resolve the matter through engagement and dialogue.
It is BFTU’s position that that this spirit that guided the negotiation epitomizes all that is desired to lead to the achievement of our Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) priorities. Achievement of DWCP is cultivated by tripartite social partners and their constituents.
We congratulate GH and the Hawkers associations for eventually finding common ground and amicably resolving their differences. Regrettably though, the issue has caused financial, emotional and reputation damage to parties.
There were also unwarranted personal attacks directed to Mr Bipin Aswathi and his family through social media which were highly regrettable.
Finally, we continue to implore the Government of Botswana to review and implement regulations adapted to the needs of the micro and small enterprises. It is worth mentioning that the regulations referred should be alongside the legislation of informal businesses and based on international best practices. We call on GCC and Department of lands to prioritise the land challenges faced by hawkers and engage them to find solutions.
BFTU SECRETARY GENERAL
BOISA Executive Secretary
27th May 2020