“I am a trained soldier”

President Ian Khama has vowed to fight public sector trade unions insisting that they destroy the country by participating in politics.  Khama said while the government of Botswana appreciates the existence of trade unions for the advocacy of workers’ rights, most of them are destroying the country by misleading their members. The President did not mince his words when expressing displeasure about the way trade unions have recently expressed their intent to join in politics. “So this shows that unions have taken war to the government but as a trained soldier if they fight me I will also retaliate. But fighting back does not mean that I do not have the interest of workers welfare.  I worked as a leader in the army but whenever they cross the line I have to bring discipline but that does not mean that I do not have their interest. Even in this country if the unions bring instability we have to caution them or else they will tear this country apart,” Khama warned when addressing public servants last week.

The President insisted that the union leaders are the ones who disrupt the Bargaining Council by bringing politics into the negotiations. “These unions are messing up the negotiations because they want to bring politics, so since they are your leaders you have to advise them. Union leaders have to leave politics to us,” he lamented.

He told the workers that the government has failed to make salary increments because they wanted to avoid dismissal of workers and he did not want to kill the country’s economy. “Most of the workers insist that I did not support the salary increment, while in actual fact it is not like that. I know the difficulty of working for long without an increment but I was against the civil servants downing of tools in 2011 because increment would have forced the government to dismiss some of the employees. So since we wanted to maintain the current workers we opted not to increase by 16 percent proposed by unions,” explained Khama adding that the union leaders have to stop misleading workers and know that there have to be checks and balances if the economy is affected by recession.

Concurring with the President, Director of the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) Carter Morupise told the workers that in a move to stop unionists from participating in politics they will “straighten” the Public Service Act. “During my tenure in DPSM I will not allow public servants who are not impartial because the current leadership is against participation of unions in politics,” he said adding that the unions should caution those who want to be involved in politics.