Government, through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), has finally resolved to transfer the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advances Guaranteed Scheme (GEMVAS) during the course of this week, to five public service unions under the auspices of UNIGEM Pty Ltd.
To that effect, a statement from the MFDP has indicated that GEMVAS office in the Ministry’s premises will be closed from the 5th -14th May 2010 to facilitate ease of the transfer process.
“Unigem is expected to start operating from their premises which are situated at Twin Towers ÔÇôFairgrounds Holdings, plot 50370 in Gaborone commencing 17th May 2010,” read part of the statement.
The involved unions, according to the MFDP, include the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Secondary Teachers Union (BOSETU) and Botswana Land Boards and Local Authorities Workers Union (BLLAWU) as well as the National Amalgamated Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU).
BOPEU and NALCGPWU are known component members of the controversial Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) while the other three Unigem members, namely BTU, BOSETU and BLLAWU are presently members of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU).
However, with the advent of recent developments relating to the election of new leadership at the BFTU’s 12th Triennial Delegates congress where BOSETU decided to withdraw its candidate for presidency, and BLLAWU and BTU subsequently joined the former to walk out on BFTU‘s crucial event in protest, it remains to be seen what is to become of this financial relationship.
Andrew Motsamai, President of BOPEU told the Sunday Standard in a past interview that the deal between Government and the Unions’ company was simply a citizen empowerment initiative, contrary to perceptions at the time that it was a Government strategy to tame public service unions.
“You will recall that even Former President Festus Mogae highlighted in one of his last days’ state of the Nation address, the decision by Government in line with the country’s privatization policy to prioritize employees before disposing the assets to any interested third party,” Motsamai qualified.
He pointed out that it was in that spirit that the Government, Unigem arrangement was been effected.
For his part, Secretary General of BOSETU Kwenasebele Modukanele, has also dispelled the perception that GEMVAS may necessarily imply anything else other than a just business venture between interested public service unions.
Moreover, a statement recently released by BOSETU under the title, “BOSETU calls for workers unity under BFTU”, prompted by allegations that they had left BFTU for BOFEPUSU , has categorically discounted their working with pro BOFEPUSU unions meant they had turned the backs on BFTU.
“These reports are not true as BOSETU remains committed to the objectives and aspirations of BFTU. BOSETU has a good working relationship with both the public and private sector unions,” read the statement.
A further qualification was made of the relationship between the predominantly secondary teachers union and BOPEU, BLLAWU and Manual Workers Union, adding that the relationship dated as far back as time before the formation of BOFEPUSU.
It further emerged from the same statement that the joint activities in which BOSETU and BLLAWU as well as BOFEPUSU component unions cooperated were merely intended as strategic vehicles for practically shared concerns than premised on anti-BFTU agenda.
On the contrary, “BOSETU‘s intention is to bring all labour organizations to work under the BFTU, the umbrella labour body,” sounded the statement which was dated 15th April 2010, with a call for the other BFTU affiliate unions to help it achieve the dream for a unified labour umbrella body.
Against this background, the extent of commitment of the BFTU Executive to constructively engage estranged affiliates and the ability of its five public service members to overcome the influence of Government money remains a litmus test for the country’s politically fragile labour movement.