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Khama, BOPEU share stage

Khama says BOPEU is responsible union

President Ian Khama has heaped praises on Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) calling it the most responsible union, as it is driven by its explicit goal of representing the worker in the country.


Khama seized this rare opportunity in Palapye this week where he was invited to speak at BOPEU’s Annual General Convention (AGC) to castigate other unions, describing them as difficult to work with and being obsessing with the pursuit of political agendas.


President Khama says BOPEU has proven to be a union which truly represents the interests of the workers as compared to other unions.


Khama has experienced a turbulent relationship with the unions since ascending to the country’s top seat. It was for the first time in the history of Botswana under the Presidency of Khama that thousands of public service workers down tools and took to the streets in protest against government’s failure to increase their salaries.


The public servants under BOFEPUSU, of which BOPEU is an affiliate, had staged a protest in which they demanded 16 percent increase while the government offered only three percent.


Khama says BOFEPUSU demands were unreasonable and could not be met by government since the country was experiencing an economic down-turn. The strike, which lasted for nearly three months, resulted in a significant number of public officers, including BOPEU members, losing their jobs.


Government refused to reinstate majority of those who were fired, and appealed and won an earlier decision by the High Court to reinstate all dismissed employees unconditionally.   


Khama blamed lack of progress on the intransigency of some unionist that were difficult to deal with.


He said there were some in the unions “who bring forward unreasonable demands” so that when government did not accede it could be portrayed as uncaring about the welfare of its workers.


 “We know that the problems you are talking about are real but you should be grateful as unions that during the economic decline the government did not retrench its employees, but instead preserved their jobs,” the President said.


Khama says unions should also compromise to show patriotism, saying even where the law grants them certain privileges; at times civil servants should be flexible outside the law in order to move the country forward.


Khama says the public service is not doing a satisfactory job and the public is complaining about the services it receives from government employees.


“I get feedback from Batswana in Kgotla meetings and other forums that the public is not happy with the level of service delivery they get from civil service,” he said.


To improve service delivery, Khama said he would introduce a reward system for performance so employees who work hard could be rewarded for their efforts.


Khama then noted that just like former President, Festus Mogae, he still “believes Botswana’s civil service is the best in Africa”.


Khama says they introduced inflation allowance during the economic decline and they were in the process of introducing housing and upkeep allowance for lowly paid workers.


In addition Khama says he has also granted civil servants their wish to start business while working for government.


The President Khama expressed his disdain for the Bargaining Council, saying it was made up of people who had political agendas, therefore making it hard to reach an agreement.


Khama says since BOPEU has proven that “it is not driven by political agendas”, he would be happy to meet with its leadership anytime at his office to discuss issues pertaining to workers’ welfare and conditions of service.


“You do not have to wait for the Bargaining Council to resume,” he assured, “We can have talks first and reach an agreement before we go for Bargaining Council.”


BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari, who was also present at the convention, said President Khama’s open door policy was aimed at turning unions into beggars and stripping them of their bargaining powers.


“We know what he (Khama) did in the past, going around making pronouncements on salary increment when the talks at Bargaining Council were underway,” says Rari.


Khama says with the new civil service leadership he is hoping that the relationship between his government and unions will improve.


 “I hope it will turn a new leaf with unions and public service in general,” he said.


Subsequent to 2014 general elections, Khama made several changes to the office responsible for public service. Eric Molale, the former Private Secretary to the President (PSP), has been appointed the new Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Carter Morupisi, who was the Director of the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) replaced Molale as the PSP while Ruth Maporisa took over at DPSM on promotion from Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture.


Last week, Abram Kesupile, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Kanye South, said Khama has packed the leadership of public service with people known to be anti-workers and it could “spell another tumultuous relationship with the government in the next five years”.

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The resolution by the CC, which Masisi proposed, is viewed as a ploy to deflate the incumbent, Mpho Balopi’s political ambitions and send him into political obscurity. The two have not been on good terms since the 2019 elections, and the fallout has been widening despite attempts to reconcile them. In essence, the BDP says that Balopi, who is currently a Member of Parliament, Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, and a businessman, is overwhelmed by the role.

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Moitoi’s application follows the Secretary-General’s launch of the third edition of the Global Call for Heads and Deputy Heads of United Nations Field Missions, which aims to expand the pool of candidates for the positions of SRSG) and their deputies to advance gender parity and geographical diversity at the most senior leadership level in the field. These mission leadership positions are graded at the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General levels.

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