Batswana working in the Okavango Delta are said to be suffering abuse at the hands of their employers.
Their ill treatment remains the country’s nightmare something that calls for immediate attention.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) raised the concern about the matter when addressing complaints about labour issues overwhelming the Ministry of Employment, Labour, Productivity and Skills Development. Batswana working in the delta are reportedly suffering at the hands of their employers as besides being ill-treated, they are underpaid and working under poor conditions.
A PAC member and also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Francistown South Wynter Mmolotsi said Batswana working in the delta are the most abused employees in the country because their working places are not easily accessible.
“You do not easily visit the delta to carry out assessments something that their employers are aware of. What could be done for the ministry to be able to arrive there especially that workers are suffering abuse at the hands of their employees. It is alleged that they also bribe officers with a lot of money hence persistence of abuse against employees, Gatwe ga ba bribe ba amogedisa,” he said.
Responding to the concern, the ministry’s Acting Private Secretary Claude Mojafi conceded the ministry is currently faced with challenges to access the delta. He said in the past ,they were assisted by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) with helicopters to access the delta because it is very expensive for government to do it on its own.
“Yes it is true we are failing to access the delta to frequently carry out inspections as required because of lack of funds. Accessing the delta is expensive
Sharing similar sentiments that Batswana working in the delta are ill treated, PAC chairperson, Dithapelo Keorapetse asked whether the ministry has ever considered a special relief measures for the workers because it is problem as some cannot even bury their loved ones in times of bereavement.
“If in a month you fly once to Maun when a tragedy occurs after you return to the delta you cannot fly back. There are so many issues regarding their working conditions including serious allegations of racism. How about you consider a special investigation to find out what is happening there because those employees are the most abused?” Keorapetse asked.
Mojafi said as the Ministry they have task teams in place to address the concerns but they are failing to access the delta due to lack of funds. He said when they have money they at times hire planes but the problem is that they cannot always access the delta something that he admitted was a problem.
In the past there were unconfirmed reports that suggested that in some certain areas there has been sparks of sexual abuse. There were also allegations of the said employers violating labour and employment laws by failing to pay minimum wage for long hours worked.
Furthermore there are reports that employers refuse to pay over time, classifying employees as independent contractors or temporary staff to avoid laws that protect workers.