UNCOMPROMISING: President Khama

Iron man is not for bending

The president Lt. Gen Seretse Khama Ian  Khama answered questions from The Voice on the ongoing civil service strike for higher pay. Find out what he had to say below.

Q. In line with your commitment to close the gap between the rich and the poor would it not be a reasonable compromise for the Union and government to consider the option of a tier increment system with the lowest paid getting the higher increase and the highest paid getting a lower percentage, rather than a 16.5 across the board?
A– The issue is not what you refer to, but quite simply the affordability of us giving anything and in what amount to who.

Q. Has there been an assessment of how much the strike has cost the country so far?
A– We are monitoring the situation, but it is too early to draw conclusions. Obviously the longer the strike lasts the greater will be its negative impact, potentially compromising our efforts to restore a balanced budget, which will be necessary if we are to achieve our NDP 10 goals for sustainable economic growth.

Q. How much of the strike do you think is politically motivated?
A- What I have already said is that when political agendas get mixed with labour issues it is usually to the detriment of ordinary worker interests. Of course our opportunistic opposition have tried hard to incite and cause as much disruption as possible in the strike so as to gain what they failed to do at elections.

Q. Strike seems to be a battle between the public service and you personally is that fair?
A– I certainly do not see it that way. I am not in a battle with the public sector. People must understand that there is a difference between what we want to do and what we can do.

Q. How do you hope to influence public opinion when the media seems to be against you and your own government is divided?
A- Judging from the poll that was published in a recent edition of your very own newspaper suggesting that people have strongly turned against the strike we seem to be making some progress, notwithstanding any press bias. Media reports of Government being divided are wrong.

Q. The strike is getting out of hand… How do you intend to avert the situation?
A- We are disappointed about the recent outbreak of violence in some areas, and have had to put in place measures to preserve order. I am otherwise encouraged by the efforts that are being made by those public servants who have ensured that Government continues to serve the public.

Q. Schools have been indefinitely closed as part of the strike. What is your comment on this latest state of affairs?
A- It is an unfortunate development, but we had no choice but to close the schools given that our first priority is the safety and security of students, staff and the general public. We are now committed to ensuring that the schools will reopen as soon as possible, which is why we have already reopened the primary schools. Additional measures will be further taken to ensure that all students are properly taught their full syllabi prior to examination. Those that have misbehaved or broken the law will of course have to face the consequences, which have in some cases already started.

Q. Some are calling for you to step down, especially the opposition. What is your take?
A– They should be the ones to step down for encouraging lawlessness and generally irresponsible behaviour not expected of a sensible adult. What I have yet to hear from our political opponents is any serious proposals as how they would increase salaries while restoring a balanced budget without cutting into programmes such as Ipelegeng, ISPAAD, the provision of health care, education and other services.

Q. We understand that the striking civil servants will not be paid for days not worked, is that going to be backdated to the beginning of the strike?
A- This is a matter being handled by DPSM, but the principle is that workers will not be paid for any days that they were on strike.

Q. At what stage will the government start deducting money from the striking employees?
A- This is already ongoing.

few weeks ago

Q. The longer the strike goes on, the more damage to the economy, is there no ground for compromise for the greater good of the nation?
A- It is precisely for the greater good of the nation that we cannot now afford to buy short term popularity by burdening the country with unsustainable deficits into the future.

Q. People have criticized your methods of gauging public opinion by addressing kgotla meetings and ignoring the unions, what do you say about that?
A– The purpose of going to kgotla is to engage communities over their specific concerns, while informing them of Government policies and programmes. Of course in any kgotla all sorts of issues may be raised, including those of wider public interest. In this context, if I am in a kgotla or any other public event being covered by the press, be it the Voice or BTV, I am addressing the nation as well as those in attendance.

Q. There is an understanding that your refusal to meet with the unions is somehow fuelling the strike, wouldn’t it be better to meet with them to find a solution?
A- I have not refused to meet with Union leaders. I do, however, wish to avoid a situation where my intervention undermines the existing statutory structures that are in place to resolve labour disputes.  I had in fact agreed to meet them, when they had indicated that their strike would last for two weeks. Now that they decided to make it indefinite I have decided to postpone the meeting indefinitely.

Q. Are you aware of the British miners strike and how Margaret Thatcher dealt with it which later earned her the title Iron Lady. Your approach to the strike seems to be similar to hers (Thatcher) are you not worried that this can earn you the title of Iron Man of Botswana?
A – I can think of a lot worse things to be called.

Q. Someone at a rally accused you of being worse than Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, how does that make you feel?
A – Folks are entitled to their opinions, but I am actually trying to sustain our economy and not ruin it.

Q. The country seems to be descending to anarchy by the day, how will this all end?
A- I disagree. While I am deeply concerned about the unrest that has occurred in our schools, I remain confident that our society will continue to uphold the values of botho, including mutual respect and respect for the rule of law that have been the cornerstones of progress.

Q. The hospitals closure and/or slow down is a matter of life and death and has resulted in deaths. Your comment Mr President.
A- The situation our health facilities has been of the greatest concern. As you know the industrial court has declared the strike by health and other essential workers illegal, which incidentally in line with the ILO as well as internationally sanctioned medical ethics. It is most unfortunate that despite this and repeated warnings some health workers have defied the law, their own professional ethics and common decency by persisting with the strike. As a result Government has had to take remedial action to ensure that health facilities remain open, and emergency cases are given due priority.

Q. And the media, Isn’t it time for you to give them your side of the story. Even with the animosity some have shown towards you?
A- Both I and other members of Government have been addressing the media. While there may have been instances where we could have communicated more effectively, I believe that this should be a two way street. Some in the media have paid little or no attention to what we have been saying. Others have clearly demonstrated their biases and lack of balance. But, what we find most unfortunate is instances where some media, particularly broadcasters, have reported unsubstantiated rumours and untruths, which are clearly fed to them as disinformation.

Q. When do you think all this is going to end?
A- Hopefully soon. This situation is of no benefit to anyone, more especially those not at work.

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DON

That Mr President is exactly how you start to deal with angry people.Not i don’t care if they strike for 5 years and so on or batho ba rwele ditshebe mme ga ba di dirise.Lets see now what starts to happen.For some it might be too little too late and for some it might make a difference.

DON

Oh and caution your VP to tread carefully,shooting from the hip gase poko so that you can both solve this mess.

Chris M

I still can’t believe how people could go on strike over pay increase just after recession! It’s bizzare and inexplicable attitude! It’s not like they don’t know what has been going on and this just shows that this is not about salary increase but self-destructive political games. Otherwise they would have considered the facts and not done any of this. Civil service workers were the primary beneficiary of protective measures taken by the government over the recession. Ignorance mixed with irresponsible attitude can only explain this behaviour. If you factor in pathetic politicians who lack maturity and values expected of… Read more »

2boy

batswana dont know how lucky they are. botswana unlike many developed contries has not taken to cutting jobs and services to balance the books to ensure economic sustainability. both the opposition and unions are abusing the general bublic’s ignorance of the economics of our country.

papaRoach

@2Boy: Lucky?? Are you mental? These people have not had a salary increment in close to 4 years. Do you call that lucky? You Batswana need to wake up and smell the coffee. These people don’t even get paid. Their salaries are so low that they can be compared to countries that desperately poor and over-populated. I would strike if i was in their situation. People like you are the reason why our country is so pathetic.And yeah Chris M: you are smoking your socks. Time for change, period. We are tired of being told that we are lucky and… Read more »

Chris M

papaRoach, some of us are not 2 years old! We know what our country is like and understand the mindset of our people, including real leaders. Nonsense wont do for some of us! We know what recession meant for this nation. Everyone needs money but we need to be real and realistic. What kind of change are you talking about? I din’t go to college to be a f**l for anyone! Led around like a lap dog and engaging in disgusting behaviour and somehow hoping that out of that would come a solution to my challenges. I’m sure I’m not… Read more »

eagle

My president; I like it how you answered all those question . Yea, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. They know they are not after the truth. thank you Mr president . I wish if the time allows you could give more of such interviews for the best interrest of the nation. Even how the goverment protected job loss during recession should be published.

To Whom It Concerns

Chris M … We are not 2 years old either!!!

Back to the main issue, if I was a public servant and was asked to make a compromise for the good of the nation’s economy and then I looked at the DIS budget I will say shuv it I am entitled to a pay rise.

kwerekwere

I bet Chris M is DIS

Comfort maliks

Strikers has to take heed of our Deficit, and the fact that during recession civil servants` salaries were not reduced, and retrenchment did`t happen.

i highly understand the fact that civil servants did`t had increment in years now.

..nevertheless the ongoing strike is politically motivated….that make me skeptic…

oeborupile

This strike is a major issue n needs to be regarded as such, gatwe ga gona madi but gvt is busy recruiting temporary staff to replace those on strike, i dont think they are volunteering so bona ba duelwa ka eng?Myb i dnt understnd bt nna ke bona dilo di sokame mo pusong e ya batho ka motho, ga e sale ya batho ka batho e.

Chris M

DIS and other security bodies or their expenditure is criticized without the benefit of details behind that expenditure. That, to me, is demonstration of either ignorance or dishonesty by such detractors, especially opposition politicians who have been hammering this misinformation into people’s heads. In any case, politics in Botswana is conducted along the lines of taking advantage of innocence or ignorance of people. For some of us who have seen similar organisations in other countries saving people’s lives, there is no way we can say this organisation is not needed nor that the money spent in its running is wasted.… Read more »

To Whom It Concerns

Chris M….All the derogative words you have used in your last posting actually describes the leaders you have been kissing their backsides since whenever.

ignorance
dishonesty
taking advantage of innocence
daft
subvert democratic process
paying blind eye to broken rules, disqualifies them from respectable leaders

Chris M

Ok, so! Facts speak for themselves mister. We live in this same country and have access to the same info. No one needs to be f**led!

diamond

interview e simple tota, ke ipotsa gore a ke nnete

2boy

Chris M, it is quite clear from most of the comments posted here that many batswana dont have a clue what is going on. typical, when one puts logical and informative commet, the narrow minded ones regard it as rubbish. if you ask batswana what the impact of a 10% or 16% increment would be on inflation they just go blank. it is so sad to see most of my country folks being so short sighted. that is why they are easy prey for the opposition.

Chris M

2boy, you’re absolutely right. That calls for us not to give up telling the truth exactly as it is despite encountering all kinds of adversity and name calling. The government should do the same. Lack of accurate information does this to people; they believe rubbish and get fired up by it. The sad thing is that even university graduates are just the same, easily taken advantage of by speculative misinformation with no evidence and get embittered by it. Strange! The trouble is that our media is very poor and is way too biased to get facts, figures and numbers accurately… Read more »

Chris M

For those who have been in denial here, go and read it in Mmegi of today! BOFEPUSU have no shame in admitting that they made decision to go on strike without knowledge of the country’s economic circumstances. They killed our people, destroyed property, beat up police officers, wasted school kids’ time for nothing but absolute bull! How can people make such big decision on no facts!? How could they have not known when the whole world knows? Opposition have been encouraging them to do this though! It’s unbelievable!

Ty_M

@Chris M, infact i was shocked by that article. I just couldn’t understand why they didn’t tap into the expertise of a wide range of members they have. I guess there will be lessons learnt after this strike. Both for the unions and government. In the future it will do government good to liberalize information on how our economy is doing and government asserts vs appreciation/depreciation, this will arm ordinary citizens to make informed decisions.

Ty_M

@2boy, i had written you a very long response but unfortunately it has been blocked “..awaiting moderation…”. I dont know what could be offensive about it.

Chris M

@Ty_M, this is much more serious than that! What kind of people are these? Where have they been all this time? How on earth can they even lead unions? How did they negotiate? Using what, arrived at how? What does that say about opposition politicians who have been driving this strike? What is this? What should people make of this? Government has been clear about our economy and budget! I know what I know about our economy from what they have been saying publicly! This is really sick! Just imagine what they were prepared to do to this country with… Read more »

2boy

this is really sad and what makes it worse is that all our speculations about the motive of this strike are true. it is shameful for people to abuse the nation’s trust based on lies. in actual fact these people must face reprimand for their actions. the fact that they now agree that they have misled the nation into an unlawful strike that has caused unnecessary pain and loss of life for many innocent people shows that they are not fit to lead. i’m not saying that all is rosy with the current govenment leadership but if people want regime… Read more »

2boy

@Ty_M, would have been g8 to read your response. there is nothing wrong in haveng a sensible discussion. maybe you could summarise what you had written and share with us. best wishes 2boy.

lessmor

Chris M ga ke dumele gore madi ga a yo. Who sign for strike and why? If your employees need salary increment they don’t need to research, as a resposible employer you should give them the facts about what you have and why you can increase their salaries. Why nako ya dipuisanyo before strike mohiri a ne a sa butse diprofesa or bo mankge ba economy gore batle go mothusa go tlhalosetsa babereki or Bofepuso? Go dilo tse dintsi tse gov a di dirang di se botlhokwa thata e.g buying caraven, jet, state house barracks, black BMW and Benz, spending… Read more »

Chris M

lessmor, you guys are free to believe whatever you want. This is a free country. In that process, remember that this country is a home to a lot of people. Not just a few who are prepared to ignore the facts. Don’t destroy it for others. To that effect could you just tell me why two renowned economists, Gaolathe and Matambo, would plunge our country into debt by borrowing to finance two consecutive budgets if we had money? Why didn’t they use that money you seem to know of? If these opposition politicians who keep spreading these were to win… Read more »

Rankoyatshipi

All has been said and the truth is just there for true patriots to follow suite,”UNIONS MISLED OUR NATION TOGETHER WITH THE SUPPORT THEY GOT FROM OPPOSITION”.
The unions just came with a premature agenda of which they never anticipated the its consequences,the big question is whats the way forward from all this mess.

Rarefri

If I were in the negotiating team for DPSM, I would suggest the following: 1)Reinstate all dismissed essential services on the condition that they are hired on a 3 year contract renewable and based on good behaviour and performance. During the 1st year the reinstated employees will serve a probation and during that period they will not be entitled to leave. 2) No payment shall be made to the employee for the time the employee was absent from work, thus not providing the service for which he is employed to provide.But give a 3% increment to the salaries to be… Read more »

eagle

Rarifre, what you are saying makes a lot of sense though it leaves out a lot on ‘staff disciplinary regulations and procedures’ One would think that these people new very well from the time they were employed that theirs is classified as essencial servicce and thus need not involve in strikes. Why do they allow themselves to be manipulated by individuals with cunning toungue to stay away from work. where did all their senses go? go a gakgamatsa. They must pullout of those unions and learn to trust their employer. -ntsu e a bua-

Chris M

Solutions are always good but in situations like this, it’s difficult to make rules for adults who do things without thinking. Just last October, 10% increase of public workers’ salary was effected in response to the new employment law. This is not even appreciated as salary increase but it was, done despite recession. After that, would a little patience to see the economy recover before requesting salary increase not been responsible? If abandoning the control of foot and mouth disease (to destroy the beef industry) and the closure of South African border was achieved by these people to effectively destroy… Read more »

ZELOLA

“MY PEOPLE ARE DYING BECAUSE OF LACK OF KNOWLEDGE” SE BUILWE GOLE PELE, JAANONG SEA DIRAGALA -imagen an intelligent person seeking for money yet le msebetsi asa oye our govt sa se kota mantatakentse,oipotse ka tsone di union gadiba lese end of month they deduct, i mean wats dat, GOLENA BAROTLOETSI i hope galona losika if so itsee o ipee moseemong sa fa mongwe wa losika aka lwala ,a bapile le nurse kana bone ditereki tseo baya go thuswa emang? tshaba ya ga etsho e lathegile , bone baba kgotetsang molelo ba ya di private hospital le bana ba bone… Read more »

joeloh

i hope batswana ba badile mmegi today, and saw how they have been mislead by their unions, they just triggered for a strike without assessing letlole la madi,i don want to use impolite words to discribe their behavior, but go bora sediba without surveying it, is how i can describe this kind of behavior, im in awe of the way mr president has handled this interview…

Ksid

eish! our country is becoming a real mess now juz because of adults who can’t think straight. The IMF didd say sumthin about th wage bill of Bots gov’t being too high…gosh i thought that was suppose to mean something to the unions…Chris M, Joeloh with u guys. really kante bone ba ka bora sediba without surveying it, ke re ya fela…ah

easy tingz

mosola wa gore yone e tshube dithaere, e blocke di tsela keng? Yone e tona e ba bona ba tshameka mantlwane..they are thnking of their early childhood ages…civil servants think wise and go bac 2 work GA GONA MADI…GA A YO!!

mukwerekwere

Batswana you have no idea of how self destructing your strike is. I had the pleasure of working in Botswana for a few years before migrating to fields greener and appreciate how robust your economy has been. The longer you prolong those strikes the deeper into economic crisis you will sink. Demanding a salary increment of 16% is unrealistic in the current economic situation, u should think of the long term impact of such a huge increase. Look at your economy, has it grown by 16% as well? so where do u think the money will come from? learn from… Read more »

borbdracula

mmmm,aaaaah tota aggrrr.

ZELOLA

haha di bogola poo! adi e thule re bone
tlapa lo ikadile,kare bo motshwarakgole ba setse kago sheba sheba arabang batho ke lona lo simolotseng ,finish what u started lorile lo bo mochaochele