Of unequal interns
The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs (MLHA) on Friday 26th April 2013 issued a press release informing the public that the allowance for interns has been reduced from P2, 000 to P1, 420 per month with effect from the 1st of April 2013.On Friday 10th May 2013, the ministry issued yet another press release titled “adjustment of internship allowance” in which they said all interns who have been on the programme before April 2013 will continue to earn an allowance of P1800.00 while P200 will be saved and paid upon completionof service. The release further stated that all those who joined the programme on the 1st of April 2013 will earn P1420.00.
An amount of P1320.00 will be paid directly into their accounts and P100.00 will be saved for interns and will be paid upon completion of service.Even though the ministry denied reversing the decision on their first announcement for interns who enrolled before April 1st, some of them revealed to The Gazette that they received P1320.00 end of April and were unaware that the allowance adjustment did not affect them.Responding to a questionnaire, Principal Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs, Letso Mpho said they were implementing a decision announced last December that allowances of Interns enrolling in the fi nancial year 2013/14 will be pegged to tertiary student allowances.
He said the allowances differ because of the adjustment effected in April 2013 but will eventually be the same as those who were enrolled before April 2013 complete the programme. “Interns already enrolled in the National Internship Programme prior to March 31st 2013 will continue to draw an allowance of P2000 as a personal right until they exit the programme” he said. The last group receiving P2000.00 will complete their tenure in March 2015. Meanwhile, Mpho said they were aware that some of the interns who were eligible for P1800.00 erroneously received P1320.00 and said the remaining P380.00 will be deposited into their accounts end of month.The move to decrease the allowance has been criticized by opposition parties saying the government is exploiting the graduates.The Botswana Congress Party Youth League (BCPYL) condemned government’s decision to reduce the allowance. BCPYL President Dithapelo Keorapetse wrote in a statement that the high cost of living has had a deleterious impact on the quality of life and the well-being of the low income, including the interns. For that reason, government should be coming up with better ways to cushion the effects of rising costs on this category of people rather than exacerbating their already dire condition further.
“The league regards Graduate Internship as the worst form of underemployment;graduates in this programme are improperly employed and exploited under the guise of “transition from higher education to the world of work”. Graduates with certificates,diplomas, and degrees experience exploitation by government and the private sector.Instead of hiring these graduates, avaricious companies in various sectors simply get almost free labour in interns”, he argued.Botswana National Front (BNF) Publicity Secretary Moeti Mohwasa said they are against the whole idea of internship. He said the government is exploiting the interns and using them for cheap labour. “The govern-ment is taking advantage of the interns, they should hire them on a permanent basis,” he said. For his part, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General Mpho Balopi said the premise of the internship programme was not to provide permanent employment but prepare them for work. He said with the reduction, the government aims to accumulate and save money to be able to create permanent jobs. “People should not just look at the negative of having their allowance reduced now, they should also look at the brighter side of it,” he said.