Sunday, April 18, 2021

Minister treads carefully after chiefs prevailed over him

The Minister of Local Government, Lebonaamang Mokalake, is not taking any action against the chiefs who disregarded his instruction not to host striking civil servants at their various dikgotla ÔÇô at least for now.

The minister this week treaded carefully at the temptation to pronounce what action, if any, he was taking against the country’s traditional authorities. The minister is empowered by the Bogosi Act to take any action against a chief who undermines his authority.

Chiefs are also empowered by the same Act to exercise their authority within their tribal territories.

“If there is any action to be taken against chiefs it can only be between the Minister of Local Government and the chiefs. It would be improper to announce such action in the media,” said Mokalake.

But his government made public pronouncements that it would be unlawful for striking workers to use the kgotla to advance their cause before engaging chiefs.

Asked if the conduct of chiefs warranted a reprimand at all, Mokalake became evasive.

“It will be unfair to judge dikgosi over the media. I cannot conclude that their conduct constituted defiance. Maybe they had genuine reasons. Maybe they did not understand the message I was trying to convey to them,” the minister protested with a chuckle.

The GaMalete, Kgatleng and Kweneng tribal authorities ignored the minister’s call not to accord the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSO) a platform at their various dikgotla.

While Balete chief Kgosi Mosadi Seboko chose not to accept a petition by BOFEPUSO, she allowed the umbrella union comprising five public sector unions an opportunity to state their case at her kgotla. Her line of argument for allowing such was that she has a duty as the tribal authority to protect the welfare of her tribe.

The BaKgatla deputy chief, Bana Sekai Linchwe, is also reported to have accepted a petition from BOFEPUSO last week and so did the Kweneng traditional leadership.

Kgosi Mosadi last week berated both the government and the unions for keeping the country’s traditional leaders in the dark. But all the same, she allowed the unions to express their alternative view while the government sheepishly ran scampering.

The minister’s intention to prohibit dikgosi from hosting striking workers was seen as another way of suppressing dissenting views by the government of the day. The government controlled media, in particular Btv, stood accused of slanted coverage in favour of the government over the longest strike action ever witnessed in the country.

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