Aggrieved Botswana Police officers, who, it was feared, would take the state to court for refusing to pay them their 2002 overtime allowances, are expected to back down after government climbed down from its position.
Fears of the looming legal battle between police officers and the state were raised by Tonota South MP, Pono Moatlodi, in parliament this week. The Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Phandu Skelemani, however, assured MPs that the government had now decided to pay police officers? overdue claims.
Tension had been rising among Botswana?s police officers for years after the government went back on its promise to pay the police officers and Ministry of Agriculture employees overtime allowances for manning the Matsiloje\Matopi Foot and Mouth Disease control picket line in 2002.
The first signs of tension emerged when Ministry of Agriculture employees took government to the High Court and won their suit to be paid their overdue allowances.
Subsequently, one police officer resigned from the police service and launched a successful lawsuit against the government. There were fears that this would open the flood gates of litigation against the government. In a question asked in Parliament last week, MP Moatlhodi raised the possibility that aggrieved police officers could also take government to court.
Presidential Affairs Minister, Phandu Skelemani, however, assured parliament that he did not expect police officers to take legal action against the government because the ministry was in the process of paying police officers their overtime allowances which had been due for five years.
The minister explained that ?in the course of the FMD control and eradication exercise, the Department of Public Service Management (DPSM) raised a savingram dated 16th May 2002, which was in reply to a communication raised by the Ministry of Agriculture on 23 April 2002. The communication from DPSM indicated that all permanent and pensionable employees of the Botswana government involved in the Matsiloje\Matopi FMD outbreak control and eradication exercise, with the exception of members of the Botswana Defence Force, were to be paid overtime.
?However, subsequent to the completion of the FMD control and eradication exercise, Cabinet and the president, in view of the non-availability of funds, issued a directive in 2004, that, instead of paying them overtime, they would explore payment of 50 percent overtime in cash to all officers who had been involved in the control and eradication of FMD, with the remaining 50 percent to be converted into days off.?
The presidential directive further insisted that permanent and pensionable employees were not entitled to overtime pay.
The Botswana Police Service implemented the presidential directive, which was successfully challenged by some employees of the Ministry of Agriculture.
One retired member of the police service, who served during the FMD eradication exercise, also launched a successful civil action against government.
Following the outcome of the case, the Botswana Police Service undertook negotiations with the Attorney Generals Chambers to determine the implications of the judgments. As a result, the government agreed to pay the aggrieved police officers.
?It is anticipated that all will have received their dues by June 2007?, said Skelemani.