In a clear act of provocation by the state, riot police stood battle ready in Ramotswa as the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions peacefully marched to the office of the Member of Parliament to deliver a petition.
Ironically, unionist Onkemetse Mokone told the MP that prior to the gathering at his office, the police had refused to grant them permission to march, saying that they were thin on the ground. He said when the unions first petitioned the District Commissioner, they were not provided with a police escort.
Assistant Station Commander, Superintendent Thito Freeman, was not immediately available for comment.
The Sunday Standard saw scores of police in the vicinity of Lesetlhana Primary School, several hundred yards from the office of the area MP, in riot police gear. The police stood guard wearing helmets and armed with shields and batons.
But that particular situation did not deter either the unions or the MP.
Odirile Motlhale followed in the footsteps of Balete Paramount Chief, Mosadi Seboko, and refused to heed a call by the District Commissioner, Moses Gaealashwe, not to have audience with unions. The MP was also not intimidated by the riot police and told a capacity crowd that he was prepared to face the repercussions of his action.
Motlhale told striking civil servants that the opposition MPs were contemplating challenging the state in court in the wake of police denial of peaceful protest marches by the unions and opposition parties.
The MP told his audience that the DC had advised him that unions had no permission to march to his office but Motlhale told him that striking workers wanted to see him as their area MP. The legislator received a petition from the unions.
The DC, who could not be reached, sent the MP a message in the morning of the same day of the handover of the petition.
It read: “Honourable Motlhale, as discussed sir, the unions do not have a permit to march to your office. It may be advisable for you, sir, to visit them at their assembly point since the march and gathering at your office will be unlawful and illegal.”
In their petition, the unions said they remained perturbed by the silence of some MPs in the face of the difficulties the civil servants were going through that led them to embark on a strike action.
The BOFEPUSO has been lent support through a solidarity message from the Association of Non-aligned Teachers Unions of southern Africa (ANTUSA).