The newly registered Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions is facing possible de-registration from the trade unions’ register as more evidence is emerging to suggest that the law has been violated, and that the affected Unions may have acted against the will of their own membership.
After the issue of a public statement by the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions purporting to be a response to the publication in the Government Gazette of a notice to the effect that a new federation had been registered, the Sunday Standard set out to investigate allegations that the new body lacks legal personality.
Claude Mojafi, the Commissioner of Labour, whose office is the custodian of Labour laws in the Country, told the Sunday Standard that indeed the law is categorical about “the conduct of a secret ballot as a prerequisite for recognition of a federation.” The Commissioner was, however, not in a position to give adequate attention to the issue, and an appointment was then arranged with the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers Organizations, Lesego Pule.
Following our meeting with Pule, at which she promised to seek out the details appertaining to the issue and whether, indeed, all the conditions were observed, on our request for feedback, she replied, “I am sorry I am unable to give you the information you required, because it has come to our notice that you already have information through someone in this office.”
Pressed to elaborate on her accusation, Pule reiterated her earlier position and further pointed out that “even the Union people have told us that you have an internal connection, although we are not going to say who it is nor do we expect you to ask such a question.” In addition, she stated that for that reason, though they have the information in the files, “It has been agreed that the information would only be availed on the order of the Minister.”
Efforts to get hold of the Minister hit a snag as he was reported to be leaving for the northern part of the country.
The President of the new federation, Andrew Motsamai, denied being privy to Lesego’s theories. In addition, he said that concerning their legality, he was satisfied that all requisite conditions were met. On whether the MWU did conduct the secret ballot, and the issue presented by way of motion with a view to adopting a resolution Motsamai stated, “I know that the issue was discussed because I was there, but I left before the resolution was adopted by secret ballot.”
The Sunday Standard had asked to be given specific data, in terms of the dates, resolutions, names of the officials who supervised the secret ballot on behalf of the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers Organizations, and whether sufficient documentation had been submitted respecting the registration of the federation.
Mojafi had also indicated that there has been no objection of the National Amalgamated Local & Central Government Manual and General Workers Union (NALCGMGWU), also known as Manual Workers Union, being part of the new federation despite the fact that it is alleged not to have settled outstanding issues with the Botswana Federation.
Information passed to the Sunday Standard suggests that the Manual Workers Union violated Rule 24.3 of their Constitution. Several card carrying members of the Union who were interviewed by this paper each told how the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Daniel Kwelagobe’s speech resulted in discussion of the importance of forming a strong federation.
After his speech, about two or three people concurred with his suggestions, from there “Motshwarakgole briefed us on the decision taken by the executives of the two Unions, Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and the MWU to work together.”
However, Johnson Motswarakgole, National Organizing Secretary of the MWU maintains that, “It should be noted that I co-founded the BFTU, so I know what is required to form a federation” Motshwarakgole also denied being privy to Pule’s allegations of Sunday Standard or its reporter having internal information.
On why the new federation has not responded to the BFTU’s challenge of its legitimacy, both Motsamai and Motshwarakgole asserted that the response carries the risk of giving credibility to the national “Mhosha flimsy” allegations.
Gadzani Mhosha, Secretary General of the BFTU, says they are taking their time in the hope that the Authorities will take appropriate corrective measures. He says that when the moment of reckoning comes, “Make no mistake the law will be taken to the letter.”
The BFTU’s position is that the new federation is founded on “deceit and manipulation,” and that Section 45 of the Trade Union and Employers Organizations Act article 13 had been breached.