In what is seen as an attempt by government to cushion the effects of striking government employees, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communication, Lieutenant Colonel Moakofi Modisenayane, has issued a waiver allowing all licensed government employees not on strike and without the Central Transport Organasation licenses to drive government vehicles.
The directive is carried in a savingram, titled “confidential”, and is addressed to all Permanent Secretaries, Commanders and Directors of government associations and directorates.
It states that, ”In light of pending nationwide strike industrial action by public officers, Ministry of Transport and Communication has authorized that in the absence of normal departmental drivers, all government officers not on strike with a valid national drivers license will be allowed to drive government vehicles of official duties. The officers are advised to drive when it is absolutely necessary…”
Asked to comment on the matter, Modisenyane defended the decision saying that it was designed to help those in need in times of emergencies.
”If there is a boarding master in a school and a student is sick, we would like the boarding master to be able to drive the school car to take the student to the hospital or clinic as some drivers are on strike,” he said.
Asked what would happen in case such a driver is involved in a road accident, Modisenyane said such a driver would be covered by the letter which had authorized him or her to drive the vehicle.
On whether the employees would not abuse the vehicles, Modisenyane said that the regular mechanism of guarding against such abuse is still operating, as has always been the case.
“We have officers known as Transport Officers who are guarding against abuse of government vehicles,” he stressed.
But information we gather from government Ministries is that the system is being abused as some senior officers are now preferring to drive themselves even in cases where the drivers have not gone on strike.
”They are running their errands with government vehicles whilst we are seated in the offices or sun basking. Government has after all given them free petrol to do that,” said one driver who says that he has been sun basking since the beginning of the strike as his senior had taken over from him and is now both a driver and an officer.
Modisenyane denied that what he has done was in breach of the strike rules.
Commenting on the issue, the Secretary General of the Amalgamated Manual Workers Union, Johnson Motshwarakgole, said that they were “shocked” by this development as it is a clear breach of strike rules.
“We are definitely going to take strong action soon,” he said but declined to comment further.
In a related matter of efforts by top government officials to cushion strike effects, it was recently reported that Ministry of Education and Skills Development’s Department of Student Placement and Welfare had been paying some employees overtime money in order for them not to join the on-going strike.
Asked to comment on this, the Deputy Director of Student Placement and Welfare, Acro Maseko, denied that the employees were paid overtime in order not to join the strike but to work during weekends and holidays in order to reduce the backlog which had piled up in the Department.
The back log is reported to have resulted when some employees of the Department were last year interdicted on allegations of corruption.