Although the exact contents of the advice of the Attorney General’s Chambers to the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs on the legality of the controversial Botswana Public Service Unions Federation (BOFEPUSU) remain a guarded secret, indications are that the ministry cannot find a way out.
This emerged from details of the emergency meeting between the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Commissioner of Labour and the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers Organization on the one hand and the Executive Committee of BOFEPUSU disclosed by sources.
“Speculation is rife that a strategy is being devised to get the issue addressed in a manner that minimizes drama and embarrassment,” said one senior Government official who declined to be named. This, he said, might explain the delay in taking action on the advice from the AGC.
Lebogang Bok, Public Relations Officer in the MLHA confirmed that the Ministry had received the legal opinion on the impropriety of BOFEPUSU. “However the Ministry is still to take a stand on the matter,” stated Bok.
Information passed to the Sunday Standard suggests that the ministry informed BOFEPUSU that their registration was unlawful.
Ministry officials are reported to have offered the federation the option of “avoiding the drama of outright deregistration” by silently correcting the anomalies in the registration process.
It was also put to the leadership that the decision to seek the legal opinion emanated from representations made to the minister by the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) questioning the procedures followed to grant registration to the public service federation.
Andrew Motsamai, President of BOFEPUSU, acknowledged that his Executive was summoned to the MLHA Headquarters last week Thursday, “concerning the advice given them by the AGC”.
Motsamai stated that, although they are willing to make up for any outstanding requirements, “we find it strange that the authorities chose to take BFTU seriously despite the fact that they had ample time to object when the proposal was put in the Gazette.”
Besides BOFEUSU complained that the clause which is said to have been violated, Section 13 in the schedule of the Trade Unions and Employers Organizations Act, refers to voting in a secret ballot at a general membership meeting supervised by the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers’ Organizations.
“In our case, that would mean 17000 people converging at one place. This is almost impossible,” he said.
Motsamai, however, pointed out that they demanded to be given a written list of the things they are expected to fulfil in order to be considered legitimate. Efforts to establish from the DPSM whether Government would be willing to facilitate the convergence of any considered number for rectifying the registration anomalies hit a snag as official were engaged in meetings.
Gadzani Mhosha, Secretary of the BFTU, said that they presented their queries to Siele sometime last month. These included concern that some officials in positions of responsibility may have been given to the temptation to satisfy their BOPEU membership interests by abusing their privileged access to information, and consequently disadvantaging other unions.