A leaked audio tape passed to The Telegraph reveals how Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture Lewis Malikongwa trashed leaders of the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) and distanced his Ministry from the saga currently engulfing the youth organisation.
The Telegraph is in possession of an audio recording of a heated meeting between Malikongwa and the 33 former BNYC employees whose contracts were terminated last month.
In his opening statement, Malikongwa said “Ee ke tsile bagetsho ke utwile go twe le a mpatla, I do not know who is who saying what to who so ke reeditse.”
Malikongwa was not even interested to know the names of the delegation that went to see him. He refused to allow the employees to introduce themselves.
“In the interest of time I think you are former BNYC staff so we will know each other some other time,” he said.
Presenting their grievances to the Ministry the 33 employees told the PS that the termination of contracts has affected them as the youth of this country.
“Firstly we are the ones who look after our parents; secondly we pay school fees for our children and all the responsibilities as people who have been employed lies on us. We tried on numerous occasions to meet you as the leadership to make you understand the implications of this new development but we were not successful.”
The 33 employees said they had legitimate expectations that showed them that their contracts can be renewed.
“We believe that if the leaders have failed to show the significance of the BNYC that should not be taken unto the employees but rather find ways as the BNYC and the Ministry to bring change in the lives of the youth in this country. We are being treated as if we are foreigners in this country; it is even hard to tell our families that we will no longer be working,” they said.
The employees said that at least the Ministry could have consulted them. “We want you to know that even if there was pressure to take this decision, we want you to know, as PS, that this was a very devastating situation. We believe that the Ministry should have consulted us and allow us to voice our opinions and come up with ideas to address this situation,” they said.
Before the 33 employees could finish their presentation Malikongwa interrupted. He said, “You are not the first people to be terminated contracts in Botswana, do you know the company called Teemane Manufacturing in Serowe? Do you know how many people were terminated from services? People who have been working there for a long time. ┬áThe issue is the contracts have been terminated. I want you to show me which procedure did the BNYC not follow as per the agreement that has been there.”
Malikongwa said he could not be dragged into a matter that is already before labour. ┬á“If it is the matter that is before the courts honestly there is no way that the Ministry can be dragged in. The ministry could have intervened before you decide to go to labour.”
The employees reminded Malikongwa that they came to his office on February 5th ┬á┬áthat was before their contracts were terminated on February 28. To their understanding Malikongwa refused to see them as they were told by the Secretary to the Minister that he was not able to see them. ┬áThe employees argue that at the time it was an early time to discuss this matter.
“I do not remember you coming to my office or making any appointment to see me. You do not just walk into PS office without proper appointment. ┬áYou are not the employees of the Ministry, you are contracted to BNYC, There is very little that the Ministry can come in and do unless on the BNYC advice on what had happened,” said Malikongwa.
The Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of youth said the matter was very clear, “your contracts have expired and it has since been agreed that they are not going to be renewed because we are going through a restructuring process of the entire BNYC. There is no how we are going to give people contracts when we are not sure what kind of animal will come out of the restructuring process.”
In a heated argument between Malikongwa and the 33 former BNYC employees, the employees told him that they are hurt to see their own government kicking them out. “So the government does not need our services to an extent that there is no plan B on what can be done about us. We are coming to you because we tried to raise this with BNYC, still there is no help.”
“For you to be working for the government it does not necessarily mean that when your contracts end you can’t let go. Contract is an individual thing negotiated between the employer and the employee. It is not a collective thing.”
“The employer who hired you is the one who is responsible for your grievances not the Ministry. At the moment I am failing to intervene on this issue. I do not know what I can do to help. I think it’s for the courts to decide whether the BNYC did the right thing or not, so you can approach the courts.”
Malikongwa contradicted himself and said he can only come in if the employees withdrew the case from labour and indicate that they want to negotiate with the employer.
The 33 employees charged back voicing their disappointment in the way the PS handled the matter from the beginning.
“We thought that as a parent you would give us a hearing, not to compare us to some people, it is clear that our situation does not mean anything to the leadership. I know you don’t care about my mother and how she lives and I am not supposed to tell you that but as an employee and being citizens of this country we are trying to show you the situation that is going to affect us and those who rely on us.”
“I think we need to tell you that you should not take this issue lightly, you are treating us like squatters in our own camp.”
Realising that the matter was now getting out of hand Malikongwa cut the debate and asked the employees to put their grievances in writing.
“When it reaches this point; gare kgaoganeng re santse re utlwana. We have given the BNYC a directive as the Ministry not to renew your contracts.”
He further told the 33 employees that they are not the only one who have parents, “How many youth are there in this country who have parents, children and they are not working? We are all the citizens of this country. As leaders too we are citizens.”