With only a few days left before General Elections, controversy has erupted between the Manual Workers Union, on one hand, and the ruling party, on the other.
This was after the Union leadership issued leaflets and campaign posters lobbing voters to reject senior members of the A-Team faction of the Botswana Democratic Party.
Vice President Mompati Merafhe tops the name and shame list of parliamentary candidates the union call “enemies of democracy.”
Others are Jacob Nkate of Ngami, Shaw Kgathi (Bobirwa), Neo Moroka (Kgalagadi South), Peter Siele (Ngwaketsi South), Phandu Sekelemani (Francistown East), Kentse Rammidi (Kanye North) and Edwin Batshu (Nkange) as the men not to be voted for.
Other than calling them “enemies of the people” the Union does not elaborate why these politicians have had to be singled out.
All the blacklisted politicians have expressed shock at the unusual behaviour by the Union.
Speaking to the Sunday Standard, Nkate described the union leadership as “idiotic.”
“I don’t think we have done anything to the Union but the Union is led by an idiot of proportions never before seen,” he said, fuming.
“I don’t blame the Union membership, I blame the idiotic leadership,” Nkate added.
He said that Unions were responsible for protecting the workers’ rights and interests, stating that it was not clear as to what wrong the nine men mentioned in the posters had done against workers’ interests.
“This has got nothing to do with workers’ rights but BDP factional fights,” stated Nkate.
He asserted that the move was an attempt to use the Union for political interests.
“I would loath the day when Unions in this country are divided along political lines, which is where this thing is taking us,” cried Nkate.
Also attacking the posters, Vice President Merafhe said he was not surprised to hear a message from the Manual Workers’ Union lobbying for him not to be voted for. He accused the Organising Secretary of the Union, Johnson Motshwarakgole, of plotting the whole thing.
“I don’t expect Motshwarakgole to campaign for me,” said Merafhe.
Also to condemn the union was Edwin Batshu, who is facing a stiff contest from the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) at Nkange.
“They are supposed to be representing the workers; they are the ones who are enemies of democracy,” said Batshu.
Batshu said that the Union had been hijacked by politicians.
Outgoing Selebi Phikwe West MP Kario, who is standing against the BCP leader Gilson Saleshando and BNF’s Moeti Mohwasa, said that it was unfortunate that the union was poking its nose into partisan affairs.
“Motshwaragole is abusing his position and union resources by poking his nose into partisan affairs,” said Kario.
Motswarakgole, however, maintains the Union is not a busybody.
He says throughout the world trade unions are known to get involved in politics.
“We cannot be spectators of people who are going to make laws that affect the workers,” he said. “We believe we can urge members not to vote for certain individuals,” he said.
Prior to the BDP’s Kanye Congress, the Union issued a number of press statements expressing solidarity with the BDP’s rival Barata-Phathi faction who proceeded on to win the party’s central committee elections.