The Director of Public Service Management (DPSM) Festinah Bakwena has called on the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) to urgently clarify reports that it intends “to save the troubled opposition cooperation talks”.
Bakwena on Friday wrote to the Federation’s secretariat, demanding to know if reports that the federation will be meeting to intervene on the talks are true.
The Federation’s secretary general, Andrew Motsamai, was quoted in one of the weekly newspapers discussing the possibility of a meeting with the Botswana Congress Party’s (BCP) Dumelang Saleshando, Botswana National Front (BNF)’s Duma Boko as well as the Botswana Movement For Democracy’s (BMD)’s Gomolemo Motswaledi.
Reports that the federation intends to be a guest at the negotiations table has irked government.
Government has accused the public officers running the federation of active involvement in politics.
“This Directorate would also like to draw your attention to the provisions of the Public Service Act No. 30 of 2008 section 5(a)(b)(c)(d) and previous communication by the office of the Permanent Secretary to the President informing public servants to desist from engaging in active political participation.”
The Federation, however, has dismissed Bakwena’s request and stated that BOFEPUSU is not a government department.
“Contrary to your belief, BOFEPUSU is not accountable to the DPSM or to the Permanent Secretary to the President. Our allegiance as a federation is to the laws of the country. The Constitution of this Republic, although not the most progressive, entrenches BOFEPUSU’s right to freedom of association, assembly and speech,” reads a letter of response by the Federation and addressed to Bakwena.
“BOFEPUSU has been given a clear mandate to carry out its activities in accordance with its constitution and the aspirations of the workers,” states BOFEPUSU.
It says that at the core of its meetings with national leaders, including those in the opposition and the ruling party, are such aspirations as review of the constitution, reform of the judiciary, fight against corruption, fight against deployment of political cadres to public offices and equitable distribution of wealth.
“The struggle for the attainment of these ideals is part of a greater project to liberate workers. It is against the above background that we will be meeting opposition leaders as accurately reported in the Mmegi Newspaper,” the letter from the Federation reads in part.
The Union has threatened to report government to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for interfering in its affairs.
“Please take note that the letter that you have written to us constitutes undue interference with the activities of a trade union, and we will in future not dignify such letters with a response; we will simply report the conduct to the International Labour Organisation.”
The Union has also advised government to sue if it insists the federation is in breach of the Public Service Act.