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What’s in the uniform?

What's in the uniform?
PRISONS COMMISSIONER: Dinah Marathe

Botswana Prisons tells non-uniformed staff to kit up

The winds of change are blowing through the Botswana Prisons Services (BPS).

Following a changing of the guard amongst the top brass, with Dinah Marathe replacing Silas Motlalekgosi as Commissioner earlier this year, the BPS is now in the process of converting some of its non-uniformed personnel to uniformed staff.

In a savingram dated 30 April, the Service revealed all those affected would undergo basic training. The conversion comes across as voluntarily, on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis.

The savingram states that while the BPS was in the process of improving conditions of service for non-uniformed employees, they noted some requested to be converted to uniformed staff.

It is further explained that the BPS agreed to this request as part of an initiative to address stagnant progression in salaries of non-uniform staff and their exclusion from some allowances and benefits.

Affected cadres include pharmacy technicians, psychologists, nurses, medical officers, and lawyers.

However, in an interview with The Voice, and speaking on condition of anonymity, some of the affected employees said while this is presented as an optional exercise, it is in fact order from the Permanent Secretary.

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“There’s not a single nurse or doctor who requested to wear a Prison uniform. In fact, it was an order and we were all given one day to have submitted our written consent to the Prisons Headquarters,” claimed a disgruntled medical officer.

He noted that the letter was dispatched on 30th April, with staff given until 4 May to have submitted their written consent.

“Remember 1st and 2nd May were holidays, so we only had one working day to respond to the order. We’re all in panic mode because we have no idea what would’ve happened to us had we not sent our letters of consent,” he said.

The concerned source further stated while BPS claims the conversion was to address stagnant progression in salaries, most remain in the same salary structure.

“Only the BPS lawyer was elevated to the E2 scale, and for the rest of us the only change was the uniform,” added another staff member.

He believes this change will create chaos within the Prison Service as now the medical staff will be taking orders from the high-ranking Prison officials.

The medical officer explained that under the new arrangement nurses will be heading stations, and Site Managers will be Superintendents taking orders from people who a few weeks ago were junior to them.

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“How is the clinic going to run? Once you’re in the uniform you don’t question anything. A Clinical Psychologist can be ordered to go to Boro the next day, leaving his post. For nurses, it’s going to get worse. They’re going to face hardened criminals alone as there’s an acute shortage of warders,” he warned.

The concerned group further stated that Aids councillors, data clerks, healthcare officers, and auxiliary staff have been left out of the exercise.

“If they really cared about the conditions of service and progression they would have absorbed everyone. What they are basically saying is the rest of the non-uniformed staff members, some with 20 years experience, will remain on the B scale until they retire,” fired the upset insider.

The Voice sent a questionnaire to the Permanent Secretary but he was yet to respond at the time of going to press.

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