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Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MMEWR)
Rebuttal: Job losses in water sector reform
17/10/09
The Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources would like to point your attention to the article that bore the caption: "Job losses in water sector reform" The article that pointed to some job losses in the prevailing water sector reform, as you may be aware, appeared on the ninth page of the 22nd May 2009 edition of the Botswana Guardian newspaper.

The Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources would like to point your attention to the article that bore the caption: "Job losses in water sector reform" The article that pointed to some job losses in the prevailing water sector reform, as you may be aware, appeared on the ninth page of the 22nd May 2009 edition of the Botswana Guardian newspaper.

The Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources notes with great concern the fact that the aforementioned article is riddled with inaccuracies that, if not granted the attention they deserve, might mislead the nation. Therefore, it is against this background that we considered it appropriate to hasten in responding to your article lest the public gets acquainted to the wrong impressions as painted by the article. The article posits that 17 employees previously under the employ of the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) and based in Mogoditshane and Tlokweng villages have lost their jobs owing to the ongoing water sector reform.

In the interest of transparency, we would like to highlight some facts that should point the nation in the right direction. It is worth mentioning, from the outset, that contrary to your article, no one has been retrenched due to the water sector reform exercise. It must be brought to the fore that government has taken a deliberate decision that no employee will be retrenched due to the water sector reform. In view of this, it is at the heart of our intention to keep all the employees previously under the employ of DWA in the bracket of the working class. It is worth noting that DWA is still operating 15 stations in the country and it has been agreed that employees not absorbed by WUC will be redeployed within such stations and other government departments.

Prior to the takeover, an internal absorption exercise targeting employees previously under the Department of Water Affairs was carried out by WUC to fill the positions within the corporation. The process, here employed, was agreed and adopted after thorough consultation with the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM), Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MMEWR), Ministry of Local Government (MLG), Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) and Union representatives of Botswana Land Boards and Local Authorities Workers Union (BLLAWU), Manual Workers Union (MWU) and Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU). The absorption process, as agreed, is such that: WUC will absorb employees from Mogoditshane, Tlokweng and North East.

However, while it was the hope of all the parties involved that every affected employee will be absorbed right away by WUC, it has come to light that not all could be absorbed. The development can be attributed to the following reasons: inappropriate qualification, employees not accepting offers from WUC for personal reasons, surplus to WUC requirements and Age cut off point (above 50 years of age). Subsequent to these, WUC agreed to lower its entry requirements with the intention of absorbing as many people as possible.

On the issue of withdrawal of transfers, it must be noted that upon realising that there was critical shortage of Labourers, WUC lowered its qualification further from JC to Standard Seven. This in effect meant that some people who were initially enlisted for transfer had their transfers rescinded so that they could be absorbed by WUC. Motivated by our commitment to transparency, at every stage of the process, the union leadership was informed as they play a cardinal role in the entire transition process.

Furthermore, members of staff who were not absorbed by WUC have been redeployed as follows: Thirty - two (32) from Mogoditshane and Tlokweng, five (5) from Ntimbale dam in the North East and fourteen (14) have been seconded to WUC from Tlokweng and Mogoditshane. Equally important, the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources has developed a training plan for the redeployed staff so that they can be trained to achieve the minimum entry requirements at WUC. For instance, employees with Trade Test C will be upgraded to Trade Test B. Ordinarily, a project of this magnitude is bound to present a number of plausible challenges but we are committed to the welfare of our employees and they remain atop the list of our priorities.

The Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Ministry of Local Government, Water Utilities Corporation and Union representatives of Botswana Land Boards and Local Authorities Workers Union (BOLLAWU), Manual Workers Union (MWU) and Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) would like to reaffirm their unwavering commitment and overall responsibility in ensuring the success of the transition process in the water sector. In closing, it must be reiterated, no one has been retrenched due to the water sector reform exercise and we harbour no intentions of doing that, not even through the popular Early Exit Policy.

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