The Leader of Opposition, Botsalo Ntuane, has sought audience with President Ian Khama to discuss and find a solution to the impasse between government and public sector unions over pay hike.
The Gaborone West South legislator has since written to the President requesting a meeting. It remains to be seen whether the President will entertain the idea.
Khama is not an eager political fan of the Interim Chairman of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). That notwithstanding, protocol dictates that the President and the Leader of Opposition may, from time to time, meet at the insistence of either of them to discuss issues of national importance.
At the time of going to press, the Office of the President had not responded as to whether Khama would be willing to meet Ntuane.
The legislator said he was prompted to write to Khama seeing how the Head of State has remained comfortably cold to the “pressing and justified demands of workers” while he gaily mingles with the rural folks habitually making pronouncements here and there that the government will not accede to the unions’ demands for a raise.
“The President should have met the unions’ leadership before visiting residents of rural Natale,” said Ntuane, addressing striking workers in Ramotswa who roared in approval at the weekend.
There was militant chanting by strikers who swore “by their ancestors that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) can brace for punishment at the polls for showing disdain towards workers”.
This warning came from unionist Onkemetse Mokone, the general secretary of the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOPEU) who told the MP that the unions had invited all political party leaders to address them, including the tiny MELS of Themba Joina, but the BDP leadership chose to be aloof.
“Rre Kwelagobe [BDP chairman] said he is not the party leader. He said he did not know the whereabouts of the party president but he suspected he could be somewhere in the countryside riding motor bikes,” Mokone said.
He said that, startled by the revelation, he pretended he could not hear Kwelagobe properly over their phone conversation and begged for his pardon only to put him on speaker phone for the benefit of his colleagues. This triggered hoots of laughter from the multitudes of striking public servants.
While Kwelagobe did not deny speaking to Mokone, he denied ever making such utterances. “O a nkakela, (He is lying),” said Kwelagobe.
Overwhelmed by the radical mood of workers in Ramotswa, Ntuane promised workers that in 2014 the coalition government will ensure that people with a strong labour movement background are represented in cabinet.
“The coalition government won’t always agree with the demands of the labour movement but they will be represented in the highest decision making body of government,” Ntuane told the Sunday Standard after addressing the gathering of public servants who agitated for a regime change.
The Gaborone West South legislator said the just ended public sector strike will remain a political one because the decision by government not to award increments to the workers is a political decision.
“Resources have been diverted to populist pet projects. Botswana cannot be the only country where the labour movement does not have any partnership with political parties,” says Ntuane.
The legislator said the current cabinet is deficient in that it lacks people with a progressive trade union background.