Saturday, January 22, 2022

Opposition MPs walk out of Parliament in protest

Opposition backbenchers walked out of Parliament in protest Friday morning leaving Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) MPs to pass a bill that would increase salaries and allowances of National Assembly, Specified Offices, Ntlo ya Dikgosi and the Judges.

The walk out was the culmination of a tense morning which saw the acting Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Shaw Kgathi refusing to answer questions on the current impasse between government and public officers over salary negotiations and the numerically strong BDP throwing out a motion by BCP parliamentarian Kentse Rammidi calling on the public media to give fair and equitable coverage to all political parties in the run up to the general elections.

“Do you want to tell the public out there that we (Parliament) rejected a motion of public interest just to discuss issues surrounding the increase of our salaries,” questioned UDC parliamentarian Wynter Mmolotsi.

On the Friday BDP parliamentarians passed a bill to increase salaries of parliamentarians, chiefs, judges and specified offices, Minister Kgathi who tabled the bill refused to answer a question and blocked a motion by Shoshong and Francistown South parliamentarians Philip Makgalemele and Wynter Mmolotsi respectively, insisting the debates may prejudice the public service case currently before court.

Makgalemele questioned the legality of salary announcements made at the Kgotla meetings and the budget approval by parliament of some public sectors when the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions and the government of Botswana negotiations over public service salary increment are still on-going.

Besides, the legislator wanted the Acting Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Shaw Kgathi to confirm if the negotiations were indeed deadlocked.

Responding to the questions during a parliamentary session thronged by public service employees including trade unionist Johnson Motshwarakgole, Kgathi said, “I feel constrained to deal with this matter more so that BOFEPUSU and others have challenged the president, Department of Public Service Management and the Attorney General Chambers over this matter,” he said, adding it is a “legal principle to desist from making pronouncement on matters before court.”

Kgathi argued that, “Judges listen to the deliberations in the House which could derail them,” he said, advising the MP’s to adhere to the laws of Botswana as stipulated.

Kgathi intervention consequently killed a motion by Mmolotsi who wanted the National Assembly to stop the President and DPSM from resorting to acts which continue to undermine the Bargaining Council and in essence parliament.

Mmolotsi’s motion follows a petition which he made on behalf of BOFEPUSU on Thursday criticizing president Khama’s decisions to undermine and render irrelevant the Bargaining Council.

“It is a common cause that salary negotiations and negotiations of other terms and conditions are on-going at the Bargaining Council. It is not fair for tens thousands of public servants who are represented by BOFEPUSU to have issues which are discussed at Bargaining Council interfered with by the President and DPSM,” he said presenting the petition to parliament.

“That in itself is a serious assault on the rule of law,” he added.

Government recently announced increment salary of specified offices, Ntlo ya Dikgosi, The National Assembly and judges by 4 percent to be amended and passed by Parliament on Friday albeit without the input of the opposition.

Kgathi argued the remunerations were provided for by an Act of parliament which has to be amended every time government adjusts salaries.

He said the above public service employees were not unionized and as such allowed to be afforded the increment through the Public Service Act.

Opposition parties however indicated the 4 percent increment was too little, calling for 10 percent across the board as informed by the consultant engaged by the Unions.

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