The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) faces a law suit for barring its employees from joining Botswana Federation of Public Employees Organizations (BOFEPUSO) DCEC employees have been ordered to resign their membership of BOFEPUSU following an amendment of the DCEC Act, to prevent staff from unionising. It emerged this week that some DCEC employees who have been members of BOFEPUSO have acquired short term loans from the union running into thousands of Pula.
BOFEPUSO has filed an urgent application before the High Court. DCEC spokesperson Lentswe Motshoganetsi confirmed the new law that bars DCEC employees from membership of any trade union. He stated that “It is true that DCEC employees are no longer allowed to join any trade union and they should surrender their memberships”.
Motshoganetsi however explained that since the formation of DCEC some years back the employees were at liberty to join any trade union of their choice. He said sometime around July the DCEC Act was amended prohibiting employees from being party to unions. He said the move to have the amendments was for a good course. Motshoganetsi noted that his department is embarking on an exercise that will review working conditions to meet international standards. He further explained that the department will formulate ways through which employees will channel their grievances such as other law enforcement agencies which have associations instead of unions.
“Imagine what would happen if DCEC investigators could go on strike, what would happen to the economy of our country? It will be chaos and no one would want to witness such a position” stated Motshoganetsi He indicated that his organisation has employed about three hundred people and more than half of them were members of trade unions. “The DCEC expects that within six months every employee should have surrendered their membership” he added. Regarding the loans made out to DCEC officers, Motshoganetsi revealed that consultations are at an advanced stage with some of financial institutions on how they can assist their employees to settle the debts. BOFEPUSO’s Johnson Motshwarakgole confirmed that the trade union is suing government over the matter. “As the union we feel that all employees should be allowed to join any trade union of their choice” he said “The move is unconstitutional therefore BOFEPUSO will take the matter up with the high court” said Motshwarakgole He warned DCEC to focus on its mandate of fighting corruption rather than to concentrate on issues which do not fall within their radar. The union has engaged Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys to act on their behalf.
A letter written by Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys to the Attorney General indicates that since December 2013, Manual Workers Union has been receiving resignation from its erstwhile members who are employed by DCEC. The lawyers say the new section is an unjustifiable limitation on the right to join a trade union of choice. They say it also flies on the more relevant provisions of the Trade Unions and Employers Organisations Act which allows employees to belong to trade unions. “The new law also flies in the face of the positions taken by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Committee of Experts and Committee on Freedom of Association. Employees on the DCEC cannot be any stretch of imagination, be one of the internationally recognised exemptions to the right to belong to a trade union.”
They say the non-military staff of Botswana Police Service (BPS) and Botswana Defence Force (BDF) is allowed to belong to a trade union therefore making little legal sense for blanket prohibition of members of DCEC including cleaners and drivers. “Moreover the new section violates the DCEC employees’ right to non-discrimination which is provided for under section 15 of the constitution because similarly place employees enjoy the right to unionise.”