The Botswana Sectors of Education Trade Unions (BOSETU) has lashed out at President Ian Khama for his utterances at the recent Botswana Democratic Party national congress in Mahalapye.
BOSETU leaders last week accused Khama of being divisive and of masterminding the victimisation of public sector employees who went on strike. The unions’ attack also comes in the wake of complaints by some employees, especially teachers, that they are being victimised for participating in the strike.
At the recent BDP congress, Khama went on a vitriolic attack of striking civil servants, accusing them of being an unpatriotic, undisciplined and selfish lot who do not care for their country.
“We want to thank those civil servants who, unlike others, saw no reason to strike and decided to be patriotic, disciplined and unselfish. If you are disciplined you do not get involved in lawlessness,” said Khama.
He added that selfish people do not care about the welfare of the sick and the poor, and are often driven by a quest to get what they want with little regard for anyone else.
“When our people engage in lawlessness what does this say of us? I appeal to you to desist from the culture of selfishness, and avoid using insulting and abusive language. I also extend this caution to the youthful leadership of opposition parties. God opposes the arrogant, but gives grace to the humble,” said Khama.
BOSETU did not take kindly to Khama’s salvos. They immediately rubbished his utterances as unfounded, saying he cannot accuse striking employees of being lawless because the strike was legal and protected by the law.
“BOFEPUSU did all they could to exhaust all negotiation avenues before going on strike. It is unfortunate that the President would be so divisive as to thank those who did not go on strike and vilify those who exercised their democratic right to engage in industrial action. This shows that the President does not care for those who went on strike,” said Mogomiotsi Motshegwa of BOSETU.
He said it is insulting for public servants, especially teachers, to be labelled as selfish when they have tirelessly worked for the betterment of this nation, at very little pay.
“We have produced the cream of Botswana. We have toiled and worked unreasonably long hours, under abhorrable conditions, and this is what we get as thanks? Despite our selfless sacrifice, we are now being labelled as selfish and unpatriotic,” said Motshegwa.
BOSETU also revealed that they have received numerous complaints of victimisation and harassment of teachers who were on strike.
“Some of our employees are denied leave. Our members now fear that they will not be promoted as the School Heads are now tasked with recommending teachers for promotion,” said BOSETU Deputy Secretary Genera, Tobokani Rari.
BOSETU expressed concern that the victimisation of striking employees creates divisions among public servants. They also warned that frustrating teachers by victimising them, after cutting their salaries because of the no-work-no-pay rule, will eventually disadvantage the students as teachers cannot carry out their duties effectively when they are not happy.
In the latest developments BOSETU wrote a letter to the Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Education, asking him to reign in the Regional Director Operations (North East), after the latter instituted a form that the unions deems as discriminatory against striking teachers.
The form, which Sunday Standard is in possession of, specifically targets teachers who resumed duty after the suspended strike.
“The actions of the Regional Director amount to preferential treatment as the instruments are only meant for those who were on strike. They also bear the hallmarks of intimidation of teachers who were on a legal and protected strike,” said Rari in the letter.
MoESD spokesperson Nomsa Zuze said they are aware of the allegations of intimidation and victimisation. She, however, said the allegations come from both sides, as teachers who did not go on strike have also complained of intimidation by their striking counterparts, who call them sell outs.
She warned that government does not condone any divisive behaviour and will do all it can to restore order within the public service.