After protracted wrangling in which the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) protested the unlawful registration of a new and rival federation called Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU), the Government has finally heeded the advice of the Attorney General to strike BOFEPUSU off the Registrar’s books.
Segakweng Tsiane, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs (MLHA) confirmed the deregistration to the Sunday Standard on Thursday.
“I take it you are aware that the Minister had announced at a press briefing held at Gaborone Sun Hotel grounds, at which you were in attendance that the issue was being given due attention, as well consultations between ourselves and the BOFEPUSU,” said Tsiane.
Following agreement to seek legal advice from attorneys by both parties about what the Minister of MLHA, Letlhogonolo Siele, then described as differences on interpretation of law, it now emerges that Government was advised to strike BOFEPUSU off the roll until it meets all the requirements.
“So it is on that basis that we acted on the matter,” added Tsiane.
According to a letter addressed to the embattled federation, dated 13th July, BOFEPUSU is advised that since they have not complied with section 45 of the Trade Unions and Employees Organization Act, and are further in breach of regulation 13 of the same Act, they are registered with immediate effect.
Section 45 provides that the decision to federate must be voted for through secret ballot, whilst regulation 13 authoritatively states that such secret ballot must be supervised by the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers Organizations or any such person delegated by her.
Although in another letter, addressed to the office of the Registrar in response to one previously written by the same office, BOFEPUSU insisted they had conducted the required secret ballot, investigations reveal that the vote referred to by the federation did not have anything to do with the stipulations of the law or formation of a federation.
To show the seriousness of the issue, BOFEPUSU was not invited to an International Labour Organization (ILO) sponsored workshop on Decent Work Country Program, which took place at the Boipuso Hall on Thursday this past week.
The deregistration of the controversial federation has prompted speculation that the decision may have been prompted by public declaration of support for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) strongman Daniel Kwelagobe, in relation to the party’s leadership elections due tomorrow (Monday) by component members of BOFEPUSU, namely: Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and National Amalgamated Local Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU).
Analysts have argued that the decision to deregister BOFEPUSU has far reaching implications for the federation, both in terms of credibility for its two component members and in as far as it offers Government an opportunity to rethink its obsession with maintaining control over public sector unions and therefore prospects of a more independent labour movement.
Gadzani Mhosha, Secretary General of BFTU, has commended the action adding that it has been long overdue.
However, he submitted that in that sense, the law was taken to the letter and therefore exonerated Government from any complicity which, at some point, seemed strongly suspect.
One issue that has been raised relates to the question of whether they should show political support for parties and the possible ramifications of such a stand on non-partisan union members.