A Francistown High Court judge, Professor Kholisani Solo has urged unions to promote democracy and influence change against human rights violations. Opening the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) 13th Triennal Delegates Congress in Francistown last week, the judge said trade unions need to project their role as critical catalyst for the promotion of human rights and democratic institutions. “This is a historically important mandate of labour unions. Civil and political rights are an essential precondition for access to labour rights and only liberal democracy can provide the right institutional background for the fulfilment of labour rights and human rights,” he said.
He further advised trade unions to transcend from the bounds of sectors and industries, embrace the broader concerns of the society and perform new roles that go beyond their traditional functions within enterprises. He added that changing environment implies that unions ought to take a bigger role in an integrated world. “Trade unions also need to re-establish their credentials as partners in development. Trade unions as the largest organized group in civil society can bring a unique contribution to the development of the community.
They are directly involved with economic systems of production and distribution therefore they can influence the course and content of employment, social and economic policies,” he said. The judge added that unions have the experience and standing required to access national legal systems and public facilities. Justice Solo explained that unions can contribute through their long standing relationships with such development institutions as consumer cooperatives, housing societies, health funds and social security organizations. He said that there is much for collaboration in this field with national and international development agencies, including global financial institutions.
For his part BFTU acting President Bohitlhetswe Lentswe said it is high time all unions unite in Botswana to consolidate their voice and be loudly heard. He further urged BFTU members to help the working class who are not unionized to form and register unions so that they can speak with one voice. “I urge our members today to take an individualistic responsibility to urge workers who are not unionized to form or join unions so that their grievances and voices could be heard,” he said. He added that it is imperative that unions submit their yearly returns to the Registrar of Trade Unions so that they do not contravene the Trade Unions Act. He said that they cannot afford to have some of their affiliates being de-registered for failing to submit yearly returns.
“President Ian Khama even mentioned in the state of the nation address that some unions were not submitting their yearly returns to the Registrar of Trade Unions, contravening the Trade Union Acts. I urge all unions to avoid violating the Act because we cannot afford to lose affiliates through de-registration,” he said.