In an extraordinary open act of defiance, Kgosi Mosadi Seboko ignored the Minister of Local Government, Boneemang Mokalake’s instruction not to host striking civil servants at her kgotla.
To the contrary, the Balete Paramount Chief accorded members of the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSO) a platform at the Ramotswa kgotla on Friday to brief her subjects, together with the public at large, why they have downed tools following a request by the unions.
Her argument was that she did not wish to be seen to be fighting the government battle with the unions while she has a duty as the tribal authority to protect the welfare of her subjects and those of citizens within her tribal jurisdiction without prejudice.
A heavy contingent of the GaMalete tribal authority graced the day. With Seboko were her deputy, Kgosi Tsimane Mokgosi, her uncle and senior chief representative, Kgosi Ikaneng Mokgosi, chief representative, Motlhanka Mokgosi, ward headmen and dikgosi from Taung, Mogobane and Otse villages.
The meeting was delayed by close to an hour as the chief perused the contents of a hastily prepared and hand delivered letter from the minister on the morning of Friday advising her to cancel the meeting at the eleventh hour.
Taking the podium, Kgosi Mosadi Seboko did not mince her words and immediately narrated the events of the previous day to a stunned audience, how late at night Local Government Minister called her with information that striking workers were to hold a kgotla meeting.
According to Seboko, Mokalake impressed upon her that it was unlawful for the public sector unions to have a platform at her kgotla while negotiations with the employer were ongoing. Seboko told her audience that she put it to the minister that the local authority has never been appraised by the government over its negotiations with the unions in the first place and wondered why the government would want to involve the tribal authority now.
“I asked the Minister what was wrong with holding the meeting. I also asked him under which clause of the Bogosi Act I am prohibited to call a kgotla meeting. I then asked the Minister to write me a letter,” Seboko told the gathering.
The Paramount chief then read out the ‘confidential’ letter whose contents were no different from what the minister had apparently told her the previous night over the phone.
The confidential letter, in a nutshell, advised her to cancel the meeting.
The Paramount chief told the public that she was baffled by the confidentiality of the letter.
“The minister ought to have known that by addressing the letter to me in my capacity as the paramount chief of Balete, he was by implication addressing the tribe,” Seboko said to the approval of workers after openly reading the letter.
But even as she showed the shortcomings of the government, Seboko equally berated the unions for having kept the tribal authority in the dark about their stalemate with government only to come running to her at the eleventh hour.
Rather predictably, the District Commissioner or designate did not attend the kgotla meeting.
“I told the District Commissioner as the traditional local authority we are partners in governance and as such we have to be informed about issues in advance in order for us to offer an informed advisory role. I told the District Commissioner that he must tell his superiors that I am in the dark as to what is going on between the government and workers,” Seboko told the multitudes who attended the meeting, including the elderly, the unemployed.
The paramount chief then gave the unions the platform to explain to the nation why they are making demands for a 16 percent pay hike.
Onkemetse Mokone, the general secretary of the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions, explained the workers’ demands to the audience how their buying power has been eroded by inflation and taxes for years without an increment.
The government says it is broke to raise P2 billion it needs to meet the workers’ demand for a 16 percent raise.