The Chief Executive Officer of Statistics Botswana (SB), Anna Ngalapi Majelantle, vacates office in three months, leaving behind an organisation still reeling in controversy and lawsuits emanating from the transition from a government department to a parastatal. Through a memo to all SB staff last week, Acting Director Corporate Services Chelesile Malele, said employment contracts for the Statistician General and her deputy will terminate by exfluxion of time in three and four months respectively. Both contracts were for a period of five years, during which Majelantle was overseeing the transition of the parastatal from a government department – Central Statistics Office (CSO). The departure of the Statistician General comes shortly after Director Corporate Services surprisingly tendered a resignation under a cloud, while a payroll officer was suspended indefinitely last month pending internal investigations. As she leaves office, Majelantle is blamed for the controversy surrounding pay disparities between similarly circumstanced and qualified employees, which resulted in differences in salaries when a new structure was implemented. The pay disparity is at the centre of an ongoing legal dispute between SB and the trade union representing aggrieved workers, Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU). By Tuesday correspondence was flying between the parties, with SB asking court for stay of execution of a judgment made against the parastatal in November 2016. In June, Majelantle missed imprisonment for contempt by a whisker for failing and/or refusing to obey orders issued 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. He then ordered that such employees are entitled to the same remuneration. SB ignored repeated requests by lawyers representing the aggrieved employees to correct the disparity. After several unsuccessful attempts to persuade SB to comply with the court order, the aggrieved employees launched contempt proceedings through which they wanted Majelantle jailed for six weeks if she failed to enforce the court order within 10 days.
Now SB has applied to court to have the execution of the judgment stayed while they launch an appeal against the decision at the Court of Appeal. Majelantle argues that the court determined the wrong issue and without the benefit of legal argument on that issue. She says, upon admitting making the mistake in its ruling of 6 July 2017, the judge compounded the position by stating that the parties have accepted the judgment of the court. SB lawyers deny ever accepting the judgment. "The order is unreasonable in that it does not accord proper consideration to the financial position of the applicant. The court did not properly consider the applicant's proposal to closing the difference in pay that was being complained of. The court order will result in the collapse of SB," reads Majelantle's grounds of appeal. She further argues that if the court order is not stayed pending appeal, SB's financial survival will not be guaranteed. "Great prejudice will be visited on SB. Alternatively if the order is executed, and SB appeal is successful, the affected employees will suffer great financial inconvenience when called to refund the money received," she argues. Formed in 2009, SB took over the functions of the then Central Statistics Office. The migration exercise of 2012, from a government department to a parastatal, introduced disparity in the pay structure and discrepancy of its implementation. 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 but SB management still refused to correct the anomaly.