Chances of President Ian Khama regaining his pole position in the Khawa Sand Dunes Challenge appear very dim and it is likely he will lose to a Kweneng District Council social worker or bye-law enforcement officer in the next edition of the competition.
However, before any KDC employee hops on a quad bike and based on experience of the recent past, it is likely that the Council and the Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLHAWU) will stop by the Gaborone High Court to hear what judges think about the introduction of this mode of transport.
Sunday Standard learns that KDC has already acquired four quad bikes and more are on the way. The bikes will be used by social welfare officers, community development officers and byelaw enforcement officers to carry out daily duties for which they have always relied on vehicular transportation. Some of those officers are said to have already taken body measurements for the riding gear.
BLLHAWU is greatly displeased with this development and has written to management to register its displeasure about “your decision to unilaterally introduce motorbikes/quad bikes to be used by our members in the workplace.” The union believes that as a legally-recognised entity, it should have been consulted when the idea of introducing motorcycles was mooted.
“The latest developments are a clear indication that your management disregard the labour laws and the recent Occupational Health and Safety Policy adopted by Kweneng District Council, which was intended to reduce workplace accidents, risks and setting a safe working environment,” reads a letter from Kudzani David, the union’s Molepolole Branch Chairperson, to the Council Secretary.
The union contends that the motorcycles will pose a serious risk which could lead to its members being exposed to fatal accidents and severe weather conditions: “You will recall that the use of bikes was previously stopped across the public sector especially in the Ministry of Agriculture after they were found to be causing fatal accidents at an alarming rate. A typical example is a former and late employee of Kweneng District Council who was involved in a quad bike accident while on duty which nearly claimed her life.”
Under the current arrangement and as with all civil servants, the affected class of employees are driven around. The introduction of motorcycles means that they will drive themselves, something that BLLHAWU says is “tantamount to forced labour” as these employees are being “overburdened with more responsibilities of driving without being compensated.” However, there is a little problem here because some of the employees in question don’t know how to drive motorcycles. The solution will come by way of enrolling them at the Botswana Police College in Otse for the requisite training. The inclusion of senior officers in the scheduled training has aroused suspicion among some staff members that the former merely want to learn how to ride motorcycles at government expense before buying their own cycles which they will ride for leisure. The said officers wouldn’t have to use the cycles at work.
The union has also expressed worry that changing the mode of transportation for the affected class of employees will come at great inconvenience to beneficiaries of the government’s poverty eradication programmes. The latter occasionally rely on official vehicles for their personal transportation as well as for that of their products.