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We have adequate marshals for the Francistown March – BOSETU

MONKAGEDI GAOTHOBOGWE
Rari
Ahead of their planned massive march in Francistown on Thursday, the Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) have assured the police not to worry about manpower for supervising the planned peaceful demonstration as they (BOSETU) have adequate, well-trained team of marshals to ensure no hitches.

“We have not received the police response regarding our request for permission to march ahead of the conference, but we do not anticipate any hitches, since we conduct similar marches annually ahead of our annual conferences,” BOSETU secretary general Tobokani Rari said. This time around however the demonstration which shall culminate in a rally comes in the wake of government presenting several pieces of legislation in Parliament, viewed by the trade union movement in Botswana as regressive.

On Friday Rari told The Monitor on the sidelines of BOSETU’s governing council meeting at Cresta Lodge in Gaborone that they have invited sister unions to release their members to join BOSETU in the march to demonstrate against government’s unilateral amendments of laws without the input of the affected trade unions. “There has been a strong wave of anti-trade unionism exhibited by government of late, showing itself in government amending various pieces of legislation to regress our gains; as teachers we recently received a communication from the ministry intending to amend the Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) Act, an amendment that will affect the teaching cadre.”

According to Rari the BEC Act amendment seeks to reverse the victory that BOSETU scored in their 2009 court case when the union approached the courts complaining that Parliament, in enacting the BEC Act, had ceded the external examination duties that were done by teachers to the BEC. Such duties included assessment, invigilation, setting and marking of external examinations and course work. Today government is amending the BEC Act introducing some clauses that compel teachers to carry out these tasks as part of their duties hence avoiding to remunerate teachers for doing them. We view this as tantamount to forced labour as the Bill serves to make teachers who are employees of DPSM to carry out the duties of an entity who is not their employer,”  Rari elaborated.

“We tried to engage Parliament, the ruling party parliamentary caucus, cabinet, and we are aware that no matter what we

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do, this Bill will pass anyway through Parliament, using the ruling party’s majority. But we are resorting to using one of the only weapons that we have as trade unions, to demonstrate against these laws and address the public about our displeasure”. The BOSETU chief also said they are unhappy with the Trade Dispute Bill, passed in Parliament on Thursday night as it has made the teaching cadre an essential service, something he argued was not in line with the international labour laws, and even with Botswana laws. “But we were ignored when we pleaded with Parliament, cabinet and the ruling party parliamentary caucus.”

Another grave concern for BOSETU, which is also one of the reasons for the planned Francistown march, is the intended amendment of the Public Service Act, which according to Rari is targeting the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) powers. “Through this intended amendment, government now wants to be in control of the PSBC by hiring the general secretary of the PSBC among the public servants. This is bound to compromise the autonomy of the PSBC, making it an extension of government,” Rari said. The expected mass demonstration according to the BOSETU chief will also advocate the host city, Francistown’s visible challenges such as the snail pace of the much-talked about multi-million pula interchange road, otherwise known as ‘the spaghetti junction’.

“We believe the city of Francistown needs our voices, and since we will be gathering there, we will use the march to also call upon the authorities to deliver for the city. From what we are gathering, the construction of the inter-change is turning out to be another case of our international airport, which consumed so much millions, taking over five years to complete.

We shall invite all the MPs of Francistown and the mayor to our demonstration and rally to give them the opportunity to voice their concerns”, Rari further said.

BOSETU has invited teachers unions from Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia, among others.



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