Republic of Botswana
Government portal
Government disappointed by annulment of Statutory Instrument ...
Government disappointed by annulment of Statutory Instrument on Essential Services

Government wishes to express its disappointment at the move by Parliament to annul Statutory Instrument No 49 of 2011 on essential services. The people of Botswana are reminded that the instrument was issued under legislative powers given to the Minister of Labour Home and Home Affairs by Parliament. The nation is further reminded that the instrument was issued by government in order to protect those areas in our economy that would cause the greatest harm to the livelihoods of Batswana.

As it will be recalled, the instrument included Veterinary Services, Diamond mining, sorting and cutting as well as teaching services and all other services that support these three.

1. Failure to control foot and mouth disease in cattle has remained a recurring threat to our cattle industry. Millions of pula have been spent to make sure that Botswana remains FMD free and that the cattle industry, that many Batswana are dependent upon, is protected. The current spate of the disease appears to be more threatening than those we have had before. We received reports that some union activists attempted to influence those charged with the management of FMD to go on strike. It is clear that any intensification of strike action in the industry would clearly cause irreparable damage to our economy and the livelihood of Batswana.

2. Diamonds are the lifeline to the economy of our country since our policy clearly makes them a national wealth that all Batswana should benefit from. A very large portion of our budget that pays for our health, education and our social security programmes derives from our diamond sales. It is quite clear that any prolonged strike action in the sector would cause enormous harm to this life line. We are convinced that after observing the effects of the last strike and recalling the effects of past strike action in the mining sector, it is clear that this is one area where no effort should be spared to safeguard our future.

3. The recent resolution by Ntlo Ya Dikgosi calling on Government to declare the education sector an essential service and appeals presented to Government by parents at various Kgotla meetings, stand as clear testimony of the extent to which the rights of children to an education are at risk if Government does not provide safeguards. Less than two years ago Government passed a law that made education a right for all children. More recently, the Ministry of Education and Skills Development has presented several cabinet memoranda seeking permission to improve the welfare of teachers. These have included subsidy on housing, scarce skills for Mathematics and Physics teachers.
Negotiations on hours of work and job content of teachers would have been completed had the unions been present during the eight week period of the strike. The largest portion of our national budget goes towards education. This we done in order to distribute the wealth of this country equitably. All Batswana deserve to be educated and equipped with modern day tools of survival, as Government has been doing since independence.

These points have to be stated because, much as Government has an obligation to improve the welfare of its employees, it also has an even greater responsibility to protect the right of children to an education.
In light of some of the unilateral decisions taken by teachers last year, for example not to do sports, Government cannot say learning has not been affected. The inability of Government to meet teacher union demands over invigilation and marking of exams last year, followed by the strike this year, has denied children access to learning and their education has been affected. A failure by Government now to do anything to safeguard the rights of children would be disastrous since it will permanently rob a generation of their chance at the education that earlier generations have enjoyed.

Government, because of its conviction on the value of the statutory instrument as initially issued, will proceed as the rules demand for the original issue to be revoked. Soon after that the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs will re-issue the statutory instrument. Government urges Batswana to impress upon their Members of Parliament to support the instrument. Government will continue to engage the teachers and their unions as it must. This instrument is intended to protect the interest of the total economy and future generations.