Amid suggestions the unionization of the security services would ignite mutiny and disrespect of established laws, Gaborone Central MP, Dumelang Saleshando, on Friday broke the silence, insisting the establishment of trade unions amongst the security institutions would consolidate assertiveness and morale currently at an all time low.
Presenting a motion calling for parliament to amend the constitution to allow for members of the Botswana Police Services, Local Police and Prison Services to unionize, Saleshando called on the government to ‘catch up’ with the prevailing times as more and more responsible governments across the globe have unionized their security services for the better.
“In this new era, the police, the local police and the prison services should be by now unionized to create an environment where they should freely air their conditions of services. To deny these security services the right to unionize is tantamount to deprivation of civil liberties. The right to a trade union is the freedom of an individual and must be afforded to any institutions inclusive of the security services.”
He added: “More and more developed and developing countries have unionized their security services and history has shown the officers are all the time assertive and with high morale. This is all the reason these countries have adopted fully-fledged trade machinery where they could engage their employers for better working conditions. The government must wake up from slumber and catch up with these changing times.”
The maverick legislator argues it would be not plausible in this era to believe the unionization of security services would compromise the security of this republic, particularly since the police, the local police and the prison services are not involved in the matters of security.
“These institutions render community-based services and are not in anyway involved with the national security and as such could be deemed to compromise the security of this republic,” he charged.
He said that he is astonished by the government’s resistance to the local police cadres whom he says pose no harm whatsoever.
If he would have his way, the outspoken MP would have suggested for the inclusion of the Botswana Defence Force and the Directorate of Intelligence Services but by virtue of the fact that the institutions are tasked with the mentoring and monitoring of national security, he excluded them.
For some time now, junior officers of the Security Services have been clamouring for unionization, triggering much controversy with their superiors who believed the move would give leeway to mutiny and eventual strikes.
At a recent meeting in Tlokweng, the Deputy Commissioner, Ikotlhaeng Bagopi, told the gathering the police would not consider providing the police a trade union since they are all the time available for duty.
“The police are all the time busy rendering services to the public and therefore can not afford to down tools and strike in the name of a Trade Union,” Bagopi stressed at a short hand-over ceremony.
But Saleshando believes otherwise.
Besides consolidating assertiveness, he said, the unionization of the security services would boost the officers morale and thus bring about quality services.
“The officers are not happy with the current mechanisms. This motion is not calling for the police to strike but to have a fully-fledged trade machinery where the officers would collectively negotiate and bargain with their respective employers pertaining to their conditions of service. At present, none exist to provide for a free platform where the officers could freely and actively engage with their employers.”
Saleshando says currently the officers are operating under fear of victimization and reprimand should they voice they concerns with the management.
To add insult to injury, the legislator says even as MPs they are disallowed by the authorities to consult with the constituents.
As a member of parliament whose constituency incorporates the security services camps, Saleshando has, on several times, been the victim of authorities disallowing him to consult with the officers at the barracks.
“It is thus not surprising that we as MPs find some scribbling notes underneath our constituency house doors without names voicing depilating and deplorable conditions prevailing at these institutions.”
The prison officers, he said, are also subjected to horrifying circumstances including counseling and staying vigil to condemned prisoners.
“These poor individuals are traumatized and need some form of counseling. They are supposed to be afforded some right to be heard and the Unions are the best medicine for these officers to pick up the dwindling morale,” he argues.
MPs across the political divide could not contribute because of time and the debate is expected to raise much interest when parliament reconvenes next year.