Thursday, August 13, 2020

State of emergency takes from workers with one hand and gives with the other

Botswana workers have been barred to go on strike, but their jobs are protected during the six months state of emergency. The Trade Disputes Act which provides for the right to strike and lockouts was on Thursday suspended as part of the Emergency (COVID-19) Regulations under the state of public emergency.

An extra government Gazette published on Thursday announced that the legislation which provides for the right to strike has since been suspended.

However, as part of new regulations, no employee will be retrenched during the state of emergency.

Botswana began a State of Public Emergency on April 02 and by Thursday April 09 had registered at least seven cases of the coronavirus.

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) outvoted the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to pass a motion calling for a six months State of Public Emergency.

This followed a bruising debate in which the UDC claimed that the State of Emergency would give the president unfettered power to suspend the country’s laws and enact new ones at whim.

The Parliamentary Counsel Merapelo Mokgosi, however explained that the President would still have to go through parliament to suspend or enact any laws even under the state of emergency.

At the tail end of the debate, Minister of infrastructure and Housing Development, Mmusi Kgafela pointed out that the constitution stipulates that the State of Emergency shall run for six months unless parliament passes a motion to reduce the period.

A motion by the leader of opposition Dumelang Saleshando to reduce the period from six months as stipulated by the Constitution to 28 day was however defeated. Minister Kgafela argued that since the motion has been defeated, “it means that we fall back on the default position” which is six months.

During the state of public emergency, the Chief Justice may suspend the operation of any of the procedures or timelines laid down in the Rules of any court, issue Directives relating to the detention, bail or remand of prisoners awaiting arraignment, trial or appeal; or take any necessary measures aimed at addressing or preventing the spread of COVID-19 in all courts in Botswana.

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