The Kweneng District Council’s controversial and costly acquisition of quad bikes has drawn further raised brows. Last year, the Council purchased quad bikes and motorcycles to be used by social welfare officers, community development officers and bylaw enforcement officers in their daily duties, during which they would ordinarily use vehicles. The initiative reportedly has seen some the officers’ sizes taken with a view to having suitable riding gear ordered for them.
When the Sunday Standard initially broke the story last year, only quad bikes had been purchased, amid a brewing storm. The Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLHAWU) moved to formally object to their staff using this mode of transport. The union accused Council management of disregarding the labour laws as well as breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Policy adopted by the Council to reduce workplace accidents and risks as well as their obligation to create a safe working environment.
It further contended that the motorcycles would pose a serious risk, which could lead to its members being exposed to fatal accidents and severe weather conditions.
“You will recall that the use of bikes was previously stopped across the public sector, especially in the Ministry of Agriculture, after they were found to be causing fatal accidents at an alarming rate.
A typical example is of the former (and late) employee of Kweneng District Council who was involved in a quad bike accident while on duty, which nearly claimed her life,” read a letter from Kudzani David, the union’s Molepolole Branch Chairperson to the Council.
Under the current arrangement and as with all civil servants, the concerned class of employees is driven around in government vehicles.
The introduction of motorcycles means that they will drive themselves, something that the BLLHAWU said is “tantamount to forced labour” as these employees are being “overburdened with more responsibilities of driving without being compensated.”
There is also the small matter of some of the employees not knowing how to ride motorcycles. The Sunday Standard newspaper learnt that the relevant officers were to be enrolled at the Botswana Police College in Otse for the requisite training. Either the union’s concerns fell on deaf ears or an order for more bikes had already been put in and couldn’t be cancelled. The bikes, whose total number is estimated at “more than 20 but less than 25” and about five quad bikes have arrived but are now collecting dust.
There was a time in the past when the officers would just grin and bear it and just ride the bikes. However, nowadays public sector unions are rich, evidently litigious AND can afford highly priced lawyers. If the Council were to force its employees to use the bikes, a court case would almost certainly ensue. The purchase comes amid the government’s cost cutting initiatives that are increasingly becoming commonplace. In compliance with government policy and practice, the Sunday Standard reportedly sent a set of questions to the KDC’s public relations department. According to the newspaper; a week later, the council had neither acknowledged receipt of the correspondence nor responded.
Reference: The Sunday Standard