Following a decision by the Ministry of Education to sack veteran union leader and teacher activist Japhta Radibe on Friday, the Executive Committee of the BCP (Botswana Congress Party) held an emergency meeting to ponder the implications of Radibe’s expulsion.
The executive Committee meeting has recommended mass action to show protect against government and solidarity with the workers.
The party calls the civic society including churches, students, political parties and workers to show solidarity to the workers’ movement in general and Radibe in particular.
Radibe is President of the Botswana Teachers Union.
Before his sacking mid week, he was headmaster of a Junior Secondary School in Mochudi.
According to a statement from the BCP, the party has found it urgent to meet to address this issue because, together with other recent developments and trends, it carries tremendous implications to the state of Botswana’s democracy in general and the Workers Movement in particular.
“The sacking of Radibe should hardly come as a surprise. It is just a sequel to an orchestrated attack on the Labour Movement, to render it docile so that the exploitation of workers could continue unabated.
This attack has manifested itself through the arbitrary mass dismissal of Debswana and BCL workers; and the harassment by government, or institutions close to government, of the leaders of the trade union movement.
Arbitrary and unfair dismissals are common place in this country,” says the BCP Secretary General Taolo Lucas.
Among other things, Radibe is punished because he is perceived to be giving too much time to the union activities.
His stance against the reintroduction of school fees by government has also irked the Ministry of Education as clearly stated by the Minister Jacob Nkate when he addressed the press conference this week.
At the conference, Nkate said government will be taking legal action against individuals found out to be blocking school fees reintroduction.
It has since turned out that when Nkate said the same, he had already made a decision to sack Radibe.
Under Radibe’s leadership BTU has fast become one of the most organised and influential worker organization in the country.
“Radibe is an indefatigable unionist who has championed the rights of the workers. The ground that Radibe has prioritized union work at the expense of his employer’s work is preposterous.
Union business is legitimate and government having acknowledged workers’ organisations through its laws should treat the work being carried out by unionists in its employ to be part and parcel of their greater portfolio responsibility.
We do not want to believe this is the real reason for his dismissal. The real reason is that the BDP government has a phobia for any organisation that advocates for the rights and welfare of the powerless sections of our society,” says Lucas.
The BCP man said that his party had always maintained that the decision to introduce school fees is misconceived.
He said the decision had failed to take cognizance of the conditions of majority of citizens people who continue to live in abject poverty, occasioned by low incomes and unemployment.
“The assessment process of the parents’ ability to pay school fees is disastrous, inadequate and haphazardly carried out. Radibe and the labour movement must not be turned into a sacrificial lambs for a botched government policy. Witch-hunting is certainly not the solution. Government must own up to its failures.”
The BCP maintains that dismissal of Japhta Radibe is an assault on basic human rights and freedoms, particularly the freedom of association and expression and say they .are concerned at the rate at which the BDP Government flouts human rights and undermines democratic principles.
“We are witnessing heightened levels of intolerance and arrogance on the part of Government. We call upon the nation to be alert to this development.
“The labour dispute resolution machinery is heavily skewed in favour of the employer; too laborious and expensive, thus forever leaving the worker in a lurch.
“In the midst of this accelerated erosion of human rights and democratic principles, the country’s justice system seems complicit.
It comes therefore as no surprise that the Labour Movement has recently called for the resignation of the Chief Justice ÔÇô for they find absolutely no solace in a system that desperately needs their labour, but completely oblivious of their welfare.”