Sunday, November 29, 2020

BOFEPUSU RESPONSE TO BDP’S ATTACK OF PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS

In his speech delivered on Friday 5 July 2013, at the opening of the BDP congress President Khama launched an unprovoked, scathing attack on the public sector unions accusing them of a lack of respect for the rule of law, personal attacks against the Court of Appeal, and accusing the union leadership of enriching itself at the expense of the membership.

In accusing the Union leadership of enriching itself at the expense of its members the President makes the mistake of assuming, like his Acting Secretary General and many of his cronies that everyone takes up leadership positions to eat. Being a union leader in Botswana is an extremely dangerous affair as evidenced by the recent unlawful detention of one of the leaders by the DIS. It is a sacrifice that one makes, because he/she has been asked by his colleagues to make it. It brings with it victimisation by the Government, surveillance by the DIS and long hours away from family and loved ones.

The public sector unions over the last several years have been the most efficient in managing members’ funds and they have become so self sufficient that they have come to be considered by the Government as the most potent threat to its culture of corruption, self-enrichment and the mismanagement of public resources. So concerned was the Government about the public sector unions’ economic

Independence that it illegally sought to destroy public unions financially by depriving them of the use of deductions codes, which they have used successfully over the last several years to grow their balance sheets. It is therefore most dishonest for the President to suggest that Union leaders are enriching themselves at the expense of the members. The public sector unions will continue to use their resources to provide political education to their members and to the public. The public sector unions will continue to use their funds to take Government to task as and when necessary.

Under the leadership of President Khama, his friends have enriched themselves at the expense of the country. Some of the President’s friends have become wealthier than many of the City Councils, administrative authorities and parastatals. President Khama’s Government wastes millions of Pula making payments to entities in which His friends and cronies have an interest, for services that have not been properly delivered. The Morupule B Power station is a classical example of wastage under Khama’s Government. Despite the billions of Pula spent on the project we are still experiencing load-shedding on a regular basis. The President Khama should not try and divert attention from the corruption of his Government, which continues unabated and is fuelled by a lack of willingness to combat it.

We do not believe thePresident has any moral authority to speak about respect for the rule of law. Botswana has never had a leader who is more contemptuous of the law. He regularly acts in breach of his Party’s Constitution only to hide behind his constitutional immunity when challenged. He has appointed friends to the judiciary, some of whom continue to act as his legal advisors. He has brought the rule of law in the country into disrepute by appointing closet politicians who are sympathetic to his rule to the judiciary, and consistently overlooks honest and respected jurists.

He recently pardoned convicts who had participated in the callous extra-judicial killing of an unarmed citizen, and reinstated them to the Botswana Defence Force. In so doing he undermined the courts that had convicted the trio and gave encouragement to those who receive unlawful orders, from the Government, to kill, to comply without questioning. Given his Government’s record of undermining the rule of law, President cannot expect us to take him seriously when he talks about the rule of law given Government’s credentials.

There was no personal attack of the Court of Appeal, or of any judges of the Court of Appeal, following Judge Kirby’s judgments which were in favour of the Government. We merely expressed misgivings about the executive-mindedness of the court and the association between the two Ians. The losses were an eye opener to the public on the workings of the highest court. We have no doubt that the court differently constituted and properly directing itself would arrive at a different conclusion. We also have no doubt that the decision in the dismissals case, which threw our jurisprudence 50 years back, will in several years time be overturned by a differently constituted Court of Appeal. Every era has its jurists and a mood for the era. This is the executive-mindedness era, which will no doubt come to an end sometime in the future when God blesses every branch of the State with good leadership.

We have faith in the independence of most of the judges of the High Court, most of whom have no ties the President and are not under the influence of persons with ties to President. We will continue to win our cases before the High Court, as we have always done. Justice Moroka’s judgment on organisational rights and Justice Leburu’s order on the unconstitutionality of provisions of the Trade Union and Employers’ Organisation Act [Cap 48:02], regulating the amalgamation and federation of trade unions, are testimony of the courage of some of our High Court judges.

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Sunday Standard November 29 – 5 December

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of November 29 - 5 December, 2020.