Botswana Movement for Democracy Vice President Botsalo Ntuane’s efforts to broker peace between President Khama and public employees who were dismissed during the public sector strike stand to be derailed by the unions’ decision to drag government to court.
While Ntuane’s reconciliation crusade was gaining momentum, even garnering support from ruling party Members of Parliament, the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) unsheathed their swords and took the war to government.
The matter is due for status hearing before Justice Key Dingake on December 12th.
In the application, BOFEPUSU wants the dismissals to be reviewed as they are in breach of the laws and conditions of service governing public servants. They also argued that government was in breach of the public service general orders, which require that every public officer against whom disciplinary action is taken should be given an opportunity to present his defense.
In his response to the State of the Nation address, Ntuane pleaded with President Khama to pardon civil servants whose services were terminated during the strike.
“My plea is for forgiveness and national reconciliation. We can apportion culpability for the strike and its consequences, but that will not address the plight of dismissed public servants who come to my office in tears, asking that we plead with the president and his government to forgive them,” said Ntuane.
His pleas for clemency earned him the wrath of some within the opposition and the labour movement.
The BCPYL, in particular, called for Ntuane’s removal as leader of the opposition, saying he has failed to represent the opposition well. They dismissed Ntuane as a coward who has betrayed the opposition struggle, saying government, and not the workers, should apologise.
“Unions were within their rights to demand the salary increment across the board. For Ntuane to say unions must apologize is an unfortunate gesture that dented the opposition’s credibility in Parliament,” said the BCPYL.
BOFEPUSU Secretary General, Andrew Motsamai, on Friday agreed with the BCPYL, saying they have no reason to apologize because they did nothing wrong.
“We appreciate Ntuane’s efforts to act on our behalf. But we also have a responsibility to exercise due diligence in protecting the interests of our members. We will be stupid to wait and see if Ntuane’s efforts will bear fruit because we know who we are dealing with. This is a spiteful and vengeful government that is not willing to reconcile with workers,” said Motsamai.
He disagreed with Ntuane’s contention that workers have sent him to ask for forgiveness on their behalf, saying they have nothing to apologise for because they did nothing wrong. Instead, said Motsamai, Ntuane should channel his efforts into urging President Khama to apologize to the workers for ill-treating them and wrongly dismissing them from work.
Even veteran BCP politician Michael Dingake has in the past warned that Ntuane’s efforts will not garner any tangible results because the BDP government does not deserve to be honoured with an apology for its scandalous conduct. Dingake warned that Ntuane’s efforts at negotiations are tantamount to dishonourable submissiveness as they will only subject BOFEPUSU to the whims of President Khama.
Ntuane could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press. But he has repeatedly pointed out that his interest is to ensure that the sacked employees are returned to work.
“We cannot keep quiet while people are suffering. In fact, I consulted all stakeholders before asking for clemency for the dismissed civil servants,” he said.