Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Botswana unionists fight for seat at ILC high table

Botswana unionists last week almost came to a fist fight over a place on the high table at the ongoing International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

The rift between Botswana Federations of Trade Union (BFTU) which is believed to be aligned to government and Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU) which is sympathetic to the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change came to the fore as the two unions fought over who should get the credit for having Botswana’s case tabled before the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) of the International Labour Conference (ILC).

The BFTU revealed this week that it has complained to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Botswana Government against the leadership of BOFEPUSU for allegedly harassing its Secretary General Gadzani Mhotsha.

The leadership of the two federations are currently in Geneva, Switzerland where Botswana is charged with violating conventions 87 and 98 and having acted contrary to the ILO frame work definition of essential services.

BFTU said it was taken aback by the behaviour of BOFEPUSU leaders particularly at the International Labour Conference (ILC).

 “This behaviour leaves much to be desired and is uncalled for. Such behaviour must be condemned with contempt it deserves. We have thus taken steps and complained to both the ILO and the Botswana Government to take appropriate action against the members of BOFEPUSU responsible for harassing the BFTU Secretary General while on national duty,” reads a strongly worded statement signed by Mhotsha.

In the statement, BFTU accuses BOFEPUSU of claiming credit for the Botswana case before the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) of the ILC when in actual fact BOFEPUSU did not play any part for Botswana to be listed amongst the top aggressors and violators of the core ILO conventions. 

 According to BFTU, the case of Botswana is based on the report that was submitted by BFTU to the Committee of Experts of the ILO on 1st September 2016 not BOFEPUSU.

BFTU says the two reports are captured in the 2017 Report of the Committee of Experts (pages 61-63). It is through this report that cases for discussion are generated.

The process started with a meeting in March 2017 which was held in Cote d Voire. BFTU was part of this meeting, BFTU say they lobbied BOFEPUSU to have their case listed in the top 40 countries.

“The Cote d Voire list was further subjected to scrutiny in April in Brussels and what emerged was the preliminary list of 40 countries. In all these processes Botswana workers were represented by BFTU and at no time were our colleagues from BOFEPUSU involved,” said Mhotsha.

The list of 40 was trimmed down to the last 24 cases during the ILC and this happened between Sunday 4 June and Monday 5 June 2017. This process involves the CAS Workers Group Spokesperson and Employers Group Spokesperson. The rest of the members of the CAS are not involved. The agreed last 24 is then adopted by the CAS and for this current sitting this happened on Tuesday 6 June 2017.  BFTU further claims Botswana workers are represented by Gadzani Mhotsha and Nametso Makepe in the CAS and none of BOFEPUSU members is a member of this Committee or any Committee at the 2017 ILC.

 “Where we stand Botswana has been shortlisted among the last 24 countries violating ILO conventions and is due to appear before the CAS on the morning of Tuesday 13 June 2017. When the case comes up on Tuesday it will be presented by the BFTU Titular delegate Mhotsha who will be supported by other trade union federations in the region and hopefully from beyond,” reads the statement.

BFTU say it is evident that BOFEPUSU wants to be part of this case. BFTU explained that on 23 May 2017 the BFTU Secretary General (in his capacity as the Titular delegate on the workers’ side) wrote an email to the BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari inviting him and his delegation to the ILC for a meeting which was on Monday 29 May. The purpose of the meeting was to prepare for the ILC.

“This email was ignored. However, on the same day BFTU Secretary General sent an SMS to the BOFEPUSU Rari reminding him about the meeting, emphasizing its importance and the SMS was ignored as well. Clearly BOFEPUSU was not willing to work with BFTU on this case,” said Mhotsha in a written statement.

He said it was only on Tuesday 6 June 2017, while attending the CAS meeting that Rari approached Mhotsha, desiring to discuss working together at the ILC. The latter pointed out that it was not convenient as the CAS was in session and that the issue could be discussed later.

The statement states further that later in the afternoon Mhotsha was attacked by Johnson Motshwarakgole accompanied by Samuel Molaodi and Ketlhalefile Motshegwa. They were later joined by Rari.

“They demanded that Mhotsha should remove Nametso Makepe as his adviser and put Motshegwa instead. Motshwarakgole commanded Motshegwa to occupy Mhotsha’s seat as he sought to depose the latter. He further threatened to beat up Mhotsha whom he called ‘lelatswa thipa la puso’ and ‘small boy who knows nothing and must be taught a lesson’,” reads the statement.

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