The ruling Botswana Democratic Party Member of Parliament for Gaborone South this week fell short of rubbishing the International Labour Organisation, calling the institution’s laws “mere documentary guidance which could be disregarded to safe-guard the country from burning”.
President Khama’s administration suffered a devastating blow in recent months when a two-month long public sector strike almost paralysed the civil service sector operations, prompting government to hastily enact a law declaring veterinary, teaching and diamond cutting services as essential services.
“I would like to inform you that I am amongst legislators that supported government decision to declare veterinary officers, teachers and diamond cutting workers as essential services,” revealed Kagiso Molatlhegi, addressing his constituents in Naledi on Tuesday.
He said the government decision was well informed.
“Our school going children suffered during the strike as their teachers boycotted classes,” Molatlhegi further revealed, saying the same could be said of the veterinary and cutting diamond services, “which are the back bone of the country’s revenue”.
“They are those who oppose our government stance insisting we are in breach of international laws. But I would like to inform you that ILO provisions are just mere provisions which could be fiddled with to suit the government’s prevailing conditions,” he argued, probably referring to trade unions and opposition parties who have come strongly against government decision.
But Botswana Congress Party president, Dumelang Saleshando, disagrees.
“Such categorization is not consistent with International Labour Organisation’s definition of essential services, which are defined as those services, the interruption of which would endanger life, personal safety or health of part or the whole population,” said Saleshando recently while addressing a political rally at the Gaborone Bus Rank.
But such defiance, according to the legislator, comes with a heavy price, citing countries such as Canada, which in the past took a similar route only to earn the wrath of ILO and a bad name before the country cleaned up its house.
Saleshando said that an angry and unsatisfied teacher and other workers would not bring about the targeted results and called on the government to backtrack on its ill-informed decision.
Said Molatlhegi: “I therefore call upon you teachers present here, parents to inform your children that to strike is not the way forward. We know and feel their plight and, unlike pupils whose studies have been interrupted owing to the strike, their problems could not be solved as the economy gets better,” he told the poorly attended rally of what appeared to be his loyalists.