Monday, July 4, 2022

Ntuane wins the day for dismissed civil servants

After being raked over hot coals by opposition politicians for asking President Ian Khama to forgive dismissed public servants who went on strike, the Botswana Movement for Democracy Vice President Botsalo Ntuane says he has been vindicated. This after President Khama last week pardoned 300 nurses who were dismissed, and re-employed them into the public service.

Ntuane told Sunday Standard last week that he is very gratified at government’s decision to return the nurses back to work.

“This is what some of us have been advocating for in the past few months. In my meeting with the President, I implored him and his government to grant the workers clemency because many families out there are going through immense difficulties and hardship. I believe our appeals contributed to government’s decision,” said Ntuane.

He said he encountered many of the dismissed public servants on a daily basis and, through their narratives, got to understand the enormity of the crises.

While he commended government for its gesture, Ntuane called for the re-employment process to be expedited so that the nurses can return to work and restore normality to their lives.

“Also note that Batswana have been receiving inadequate service at clinics and other health centres due to staff shortages. This action will not only help the nurses but also improve service delivery to the citizens,” he said.

He further urged President Khama to re-employ the remaining 400 plus workers.

Ntuane has been under increasing pressure from public service trade unions and opposition politicians, who openly castigated his overtures to President Khama, even suggesting that he is on his way back to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.

His reconciliation crusade almost hit a snag last week when public sector unions took government to court over the matter, arguing that the dismissals are in breach of the laws and conditions of service governing public servants. They also argued that government was in breach of the public service general orders, which require that every public officer against whom disciplinary action is taken should be given an opportunity to present his defence.

When defending the court action, BOFEPUSU Secretary General, Andrew Motsamai, said they have no reason to apologize because they did nothing wrong.

“We appreciate Ntuane’s efforts to act on our behalf. But we also have a responsibility to exercise due diligence in protecting the interests of our members. We will be stupid to wait and see if Ntuane’s efforts will bear fruit because we know who we are dealing with. This is a spiteful and vengeful government that is not willing to reconcile with workers,” said Motsamai.

He disagreed with Ntuane’s contention that workers have sent him to ask for forgiveness on their behalf, saying they have nothing to apologise for because they did nothing wrong. Instead, said Motsamai, Ntuane should channel his efforts into urging President Khama to apologize to the workers for ill-treating them and wrongly dismissing them from work.

Ntuane was also publicly attacked by fellow opposition politicians, who called for his ouster as Leader of the Opposition, saying he is a coward who has betrayed the opposition struggle and misrepresented them in parliament.

“Unions were within their rights to demand the salary increment across the board. For Ntuane to say unions must apologize is an unfortunate gesture that dented the opposition’s credibility in Parliament,” they said.

But Ntuane remains unscathed. He told Sunday Standard last week that he will continue appealing to government to reinstate the dismissed employees who are still in limbo.

“All people of goodwill must be concerned first and foremost about how the people get back to work. We must keep on urging government to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with its people,” he said.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper