With guns blazing akin to a soldier in a real war situation, President Ian Khama told civil servants in a no blows barred closed meeting at Tati Siding village in the Tati East constituency that if they do not desist from engaging in open political activity in breach of the New Public Service Act, they may as well brace for a bloodied political battle with him.
Khama has taken unkindly to previous Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) statements urging its members to vote out some of his cabinet ministers.
A former Botswana Defence Force commander, Khama minced no words in warning the civil servants that he is raring for a bruising fight with them in the political battle field.
Addressing civil servants in a closed door meeting out of bounds for private media journalists, Khama did not hide his anger when he unequivocally told them that since their unions are directly engaging in open political activity in a bid to address their grievances, he will not for a moment hesitate to meet them pound for pound in the political battle ground.
“Be reminded that I am former soldier. I do not fear war and if you start it, beware that I will fight it to the bitter end. Leave politics to politicians. It is not your terrain,” said the former BDF commander who left the army for politics.
He advised baffled civil servants in attendance that their engagement in political activity impacted negatively on collective efforts to iron out outstanding and emerging labour related differences between them as public sectors employees on one hand and government on the other.
as the employer.
“Trade Unions are not doing justice for you as civil servants. Once you engage in political warfare with government you should equally expect the same political wrath “Le nna ke ne ke le lesole, fa go lowa ke kgona go lwa,” he said to a loud roar of laughter meaning that as a former soldier when there is war he can equally fight.
Khama was responding to a number of complaints ranging from poor working conditions and salaries in different government ministries.
The president said government is doing its best to address grievances bedeviling the civil service as well as averting the national economy from faltering explaining that the current major impediment is shortage of funds.
“Unions are misleading you into political issues and they are retarding your efforts to negotiate with government. During the past public service strike, the unions demanded a 16% salary increment while the country was still reeling from the effects of the global recession. Government could not afford the 16% increment because it could have impacted negatively on the economy,” he said.
He said unlike other countries such as the United Kingdom, government decided not to down size the civil service despite the fact that the country was going through economic turmoil as a result of the of the world recession.
The president said instead of increasing salaries, government decided to retain the civil servants thereby affording them an opportunity to survive the economic downturn.
“If we increase salaries by 16% each year for the civil service, the country’s economy will be ruined because we are still recovering from the effects of the global economic recession. We do not want to find ourselves in that situation because it is bad,” he said.
Khama said currently the country is faced with serious issues such as shortage of water, electricity and unemployment that government is fighting to address.
Khama said that unlike other countries Botswana managed to survive the global economic downturn because of sound decision making policies by government.
He, however, said that there is a committee that was established by government to try and advice the cabinet on how much the government can increase salaries for civil service employees in the future.
“This committee will submit its recommendations to the Bargaining Council and cabinet to deal with,” he said.
Khama also touched on promotions and training in the public service saying that it is important that people are trained and promoted based on their performance.
He said that it is high time that civil servants are not promoted in terms of seniority but instead regard should be given to performance.
“I do not believe that someone should be promoted or trained simply because he is older but they should be promoted because of their capabilities. Even during my days at the helm of the Botswana Defence Force, I trained and promoted my juniors because of their capabilities including discipline,” he said.