Majelantle, SB sued for contempt

SHARE   |   Monday, 05 June 2017   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane 
Majelantle, SB sued for contempt

Statistician General Anna Ngalapi Majelantle, the Chief Executive Officer of Statistics Botswana (SB), will on June 19 appear before court to show cause why she should not be jailed for six weeks for failing and/ or refusing to obey its orders. The contempt proceedings were postponed on Monday after a technical glitch at the High Court registry resulted in a mix up in the allocation of trial dates. Majelantle has been dragged to court by some employees for neglecting to enforce a judgment made by Justice Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe on 18 November 2016. The judge had declared unlawful a practice at SB where employees doing the same job at the same level and holding the same or similar qualifications are remunerated differently. Setting aside the disparity in the pay structure, Justice Ketlogetswe declared that such employees are entitled to the same remuneration. Since the orders were delivered last year, SB management has ignored repeated requests by lawyers representing the employees to correct the disparity in compliance with the judgment. In most instances Majelantle never responded to correspondence from the lawyers seeking a meeting to discuss solutions to the matter. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to push SB to comply the employees, through their trade union BOPEU, have launched contempt proceedings through which they want Majelantle jailed if she fails to enforce the court order within 10 days. The draft order, which would have been argued on Monday, reads; "that the Statistician General be committed to prison for a period of six weeks as a sanction for the contempt. SB to be ordered to pay costs and such costs be taxed at the punitive scale of attorney client." 

The disparity in the pay structure and discrepancy of its implementation came to fore during the migration exercise of 2012, from a government department to a parastatal. SB was formed in 2009 taking over the functions of a government department previously known as the Central Statistics Office. Soon after the migration exercise in 2012 a number of employees raised grievances that they were unfairly notched and graded in the new pay structure. They argued that there are inconsistencies in grading and notching salary bands of Enumerators, Data Capture Operators, Data Capture Clerks, Accounts Clerks and the Executive Secretary position. They also pointed to percentage inconsistencies between notches and problems created by the overlapping pay structure. A salary Grievances Task Force formed to look into the pay structure, assess grievances and make recommendations to management for a final decision also confirmed the disparities. Although management had assured the complainants that they will act on the recommendations to address the discrepancies that never happened. Notwithstanding the findings and recommendations, SB management refused to correct the anomaly until employees approached court, where they emerged triumphant. They contended that employees employed at the same time, with the same qualifications and performing the same duties were remunerated differently without any just cause. Further, they argued that some employees with less qualifications and levels of operations earned more than their principals and supervisors, which created a supervisory hiccup within the structures of SB. 

PS agriculture still in contempt of court 

Meanwhile, in what is seen as developing into a trend at Government Enclave, where senior officials defy court orders with impunity, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Boipolelo Khumomatlhare, is yet to implement a court order issued last year. Lobatse High Court Justice Abednigo Tafa had issued a court order that was to be complied with within 15 days, failing which the PS was to be imprisoned for six weeks as a sanction for his contempt. On 09 November 2016, Tafa issued a writ of personal attachment and committal to prison against the Permanent Secretary. In the writ, Justice Tafa ordered the Deputy Sheriff and the Station Commander of Central Police Station to "take Khumomatlhare, if he is found in Botswana and deliver him to the officer-in-charge of Central State Prison, there to be safely kept until the further order of the High Court or for the period of six weeks from the date of his delivery to (prison)". The writ was issued after Khumomatlhare ignored an order made on October 07, giving him 15 days to purge his contempt by complying strictly with an earlier court order of March 11, 2016, failing which an automatic issuance of the order committing him to prison for six weeks as a sanction was to take effect. Justice Tafa had found that 15 Scientific Officers employed by the Ministry of Agriculture under the Department of National Veterinary Laboratory between the year 2006 and 2007 were entitled to benefit from Directive No. 10 of 2001. The objective of the Directive was to facilitate faster progression of serving officers who qualify for promotion without the need for ministries to request for additional posts or resources. Although the Directive was applied to other departments in the same ministry it was never extended to the Scientific Officers, forcing them to sue government. The police have been blamed for reluctance to effect court orders. A source tells The Patriot on Sunday that there have been numerous meetings between the parties, where the MoA officials always promised to comply but never did. As recent as March 2017, the lawyers were still battling with the Attorney General, the police and MoA to resolve the matter.