With the regular allegations that the Department of Intelligence and Security (DIS) interferes in government departments and is involved in the sacking of employees, the President of the Botswana Landboard and Local Authorities Workers Union (BLLAWU), Pelotshweu Baeng, took a swipe at the security organ, indicating that it is slowly becoming an enemy of the unions.
Baeng, who was addressing different unions in Francistown last week, mentioned that as a union leader he will not be threatened by the security agents, “even if it means torture or death”, but he will continue to advocate for the needs of employees.
“When the organ was formed, we were told that it is mandated with the key guarding the security of the country on issues such as terrorism, but we are now shocked to learn that it is now involved in sacking civil servants without any explanations,” he said.
Baeng went on to attack the government, saying that when the organ was formed, there was no consultation and added that during budget allocations, DIS is always given a huge sum of money, which is not accounted for. He went on to state that Batswana now live in fear because of the security agents.
Baeng also pointed out that even some members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) also live in fear because of the security agents. He further highlighted that the political system that the unions survive on is a great challenge because the country is run under military rule.
“Unions need to protect their leaders by uniting and becoming a strong force, especially that we are living in these challenging times,” Baeng told the members.
He stated that there is need to redefine the role of trade unions in the socio economic and political sphere of the country because unions form an integral part in any country. He added that unions can play a vital part in making sure that candidates who are elected into power or cabinet are capable leaders.
Baeng gave an example of the Botswana Manual Workers Union, indicating that it had a positive influence on change, resulting, for example in Jacob Nkate failing to resume political power.
“Although we are always blamed for political affiliation, unions are very much important when it comes to politics because they can determine which leader serves the interests of the people,” Baeng remarked.
Unions, he said, need to identify their stance in political roles and the members should bear in mind that to elect someone into power means a very crucial move and they should be conscious why they are electing such an individual. He pointed out that when a person is elected into political power there is a need for that person to serve the interests of the electorates.
Baeng said that there is a need for all unions in the country to unite in order to have a bigger voice, adding that if united, they could have a positive influence in the country’s political arena.
“There is no need for us to elect different parties if we are all advocating for the same goals,” Baeng remarked.
He pleaded with the unions to learn from the unions in other countries such as COSATU in South Africa, which has an influence in political parties and has contributed positively. He went on to point that as union leaders they have come up with an initiative to consult with different parties in the country to try and analyze the party that can bring about change for the better.
“We recently consulted with BMD (Botswana Movement for Democracy) and we are still going to consult with all other parties in the country,” he said.