More than 20 trade unions face deregistration for non compliance with the law following a massive investigation by the Ministry of Labour and Home affairs and the Criminal Investigation Department. Section 50 of the Trade unions and Employer’s Organisations Act empowers the minister to launch an investigation against unions if there is reasonable ground to believe that there is misappropriation of funds.
The minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu, told The Sunday Standard that, “It is true that I have assigned an investigator of my choice, which is the police, to investigate some trade unions which have not been submitting annual returns to the ministry as required by law. We have received information that maladministration in rife within the trade union movement as a result they have not been auditing their accounts.”
Batshu said once the CID have completed their investigations, their report will be tabled before the winter parliamentary session. “I wouldn’t want to pre-empt the outcome of the investigations, but any union that happens to be on the wrong side of the law must know that appropriate action will be taken even where this warrants deregistration,” he said.
The minister also added that if criminal conduct is uncovered then the state would not shy away from launching criminal charges against the culprits.
The President of the Botswana Mine Workers’ Union, Jack Tlhagale, confirmed to The Sunday Standard that they have been interrogated by the police.
“I can confirm that police did come to our offices to investigate whether the union has been audited as well as establish whether we have submitted the annual returns to the ministry,” said Tlhagale.
He said as a union they are surprised and shocked by the sudden investigations but nevertheless do welcome the investigations. Tlhagale said though they appreciate the investigations they are suspicious that the investigations might be politically motivated. “The government wants to infiltrate the unions as much as possible,” he said.
The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) official, Johnson Motshwarakgole, has rubbished the probe as an attempt to eliminate Unions, adding that government feels threatened.
“The ministry of Labour and Home Affairs does not have proper records of unions in Botswana as some are no longer in existence,” said Motshwarakgole.
“Our union is always behind on submitting annual returns because of the fact that our congress is held after three years, therefore, we cannot submit anything before the congress has approved the audit report as required by our constitution,” he said.
Motshwarakgole also shares the view that the investigations are politically motivated.
Meanwhile, Gaebepe Molaudi, the chairperson of the Botswana Railways Amalgamated Workers Union, said, “We are not aware of any investigations that are being conducted.”
She admitted that her union has not been complying with the law for the last two years due to other issues known by the union and the members.
“I promise that by mid May this year the audit report will be complete as it has already been submitted to the auditors,” she said, adding that the audit report will be discussed sometime this year at their congress.
The relationship between the trade union movement and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is at an all time low and President Ian Khama told a local newspaper recently that the unions were out to destabilize the BDP. Trade unions have resolved to fight in the corner of opposition parties following a recent Appeals Court judgment, which they insist was cooked to protect the government at their expense.