President Ian Khama's refusal to meet Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) ahead of their Monday strike has been described as a grave concern given his responsibility to avert the potential consequences of a strike too ghastly to contemplate.
Goretetse Kekgonegile of BOFEPUSU made this presentation in the form of a petition to the Director of Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM), Festina Bakwena yesterday. This was after the unions were informed by senior private secretary to the president, Major Duke Masilo that Khama would be out of town on other official engagements. "We are aware that His Excellence has taken the employer's position during his kgotla meetings in Siviya and Metsibotlhoko," Kekgonegile said.
He pointed out that the President's position displays the government's attitude towards the workers' welfare and buttresses the fact that workers welfare is not a priority in his government. He said that makes DPSM attitude in the salary negotiation process a resultant of government policy.
"As workers, we are gravely disheartened at being abandoned by the Head of State in this time of need, though that fact does motivate us to march forward towards the workers' victory and that victory shall prevail these coming weeks," the petition stated.
The unions stated that it has been brought to their attention that some public officers in some government departments continue their campaign of unlawful intimidation and terror against union members, in relation to the planned strike.
"We have observed that these unlawful acts of intimidation and terror include employer representatives convening unlawful meetings with some of our members with the intent of providing misleading information about the strike," the petition further said citing senior public officers at the level of Permanent Secretaries, Directors, District Commissioners and Council Secretaries.
The petition gave examples of such acts as a meeting held at the department of consumer affairs and the department of accountant general, where members were discouraged to participate in the strike, a series of campaigns within the health services purporting to address the issue of essential services, ongoing compulsory meetings addressed by Council Secretaries, District Commissioners and their representatives in all Districts all over the country. It further cited a savingram issued by Directors of Immigration and Customs to all employees at the border gate stations.
In their petition, BOFEPUSU said the interference was done without notice to the trade union "and is in direct violation of the communication clause as envisaged in the recognition agreements concluded by the trade unions and government." They said to add insult to injury, the employer has misled some of their members into believing that they provide essential services whereas they do not or should not be regarded as such in terms of the Trade Dispute Act read together with the Public Service Act. For instance, the Revenue Collector and Immigration officials have been deliberately misled into believing that theirs are essential services despite legal provisions to the contrary."
The petition stated that the members remain resolute and reiterate their patriotism to the country, "and inform Batswana of the upcoming massive civil service industrial action resulting from the attitude of the employer on the salary negotiations."
Meanwhile by end of business day yesterday, the leadership of the five unions met with the DPSM over the finalisation and agreement of the strike rules.
This week, the other batches of union leaders were in different places around the country addressing nurses and immigration officers about the strike. BOFEPUSU is comprised of five public service unions. The strike has been scheduled for Monday.