Opposition MPs brought parliamentary business to a halt Friday morning when they walked out in protest after the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) MPs shot down a motion calling for the reinstatement of sacked public servants previously employed in the Essential Service cluster.
“We are definitely walking into chaos,” was what the deputy speaker of the National Assembly Pono Moathodi said after a block of opposition legislators packed their files and made a bee line out of Parliament.
The MPs, led by Kanye South MP Abram Kesupile, said they could not sit in parliament with indifference when sacked Essential Service employees are roaming the streets unemployed.
“Government seeks to punish those sacked after the public service strike, the motion was not defeated on facts and merits rather it was defeated on partisan grounds,” an annoyed Kesupile told members of the press shortly after the walkout.
He said that it was worrying that the motion, tabled by Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi, was not even debated.
Kesupile addressed members of the press along with MPs Bagalatia Arone of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Gilbert Mangole of the Botswana Movement For Democracy (BMD).
Mangole said legislators could not fold their arms and sit comfortably in parliament while government was taking its time to employ the sacked employees.
“Workers have done their best and sacrificed a lot, it’s our responsibility as national leaders to take the workers’ concerns forward…we cannot sit in comfort and discuss sports issues when the very drivers of our economy are roaming the streets,” said Mangole.
Mangole accused President Ian Khama of being a barrier to reaching a meaningful solution through dialogue.
“We are faced with an abnormal situation, we have a leader who is very angry at the workers, nation and the backbench and all roads for a dialogue are closed,” he said.
Meanwhile, MP Arone disclosed to journalists that the Opposition would table the motion again this week. He also revealed that they had decided to invite an expert from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to assist them in resolving the issue. He said that instead of looking at what transpired during the strike and apportioning blame, government should be looking at drawing lessons from the strike.
“Why would say people are essential service and yet you refuse to reinstate them?” questioned the Okavango legislator.
Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mokgweetsi Masisi, described the walkout as hypocritical, adding that there was no urgency in the motion. He said that opposition MPs lack the integrity to discuss such an issue because they had in the first place misled the sacked employees.
“If I were the workers I would demand my job and livelihood from them,” said Masisi
Government has fired a total of 2808; however, about 950 have conditionally been re-employed back into the public service.
Masisi accused the opposition bench of parliament of being opportunistic and insincere, adding that if the legislators had the workers’ interests at heart they could have advised Union leaders to take government’s initial offer or have the dispute referred to arbitration. He said all this could have been avoided.
He said that even if the motion were to be debated in parliament, government could not reinstate all the fired employees.
“We cannot practically take everyone back because some of the vacancies have been filled,” Masisi told the Sunday Standard.