Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Rifts threaten debt ridden BFTU

While the beleaguered Botswana Federations of Trade Unions (BFTU) is struggling to raise money to pay-off their P 10 million loan and P 2 million arrears owed to the National Development Bank, there are already signs of discontent among some of its affiliates from the civil service who have decided to form their own splinter federation of government workers unions.

Last week, the Deputy Sheriff, Ikageng Seloi, moved to attach Babereki House as the BFTU had failed to service their loan with the NDB which gave the federation up to June 30 to fulfill their commitment, failing which the three storey labour union headquarters would be auctioned off.

Speaking to The Sunday Standard on Friday, an official at the federation said that they were working around the clock to raise funds to pay off the debt. He said that last week’s general council meeting in Palapye was very successful as delegates from various affiliate unions reaffirmed their commitment to the federation and made pledges to help it out of its current quagmire. A subsequent meeting of the national executive committee was held in Palapye yesterday (Saturday) to chart the way forward.

Just when the NEC was heaving a sigh of relief as it seemed that BFTU would, after all, not lose their treasured Babereki House, more problems emerged after an announcement by the Botswana Manual Workers Union Organizing Secretary, Johnson Motshwarakgole, that he was spearheading a group of dissident BFTU affiliates who, fed up with the BFTU’s continuous errors, have decided to form their own federation of government workers unions called the Botswana Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

But if the opinions of a majority of the affiliates are anything to go by, the BFTU might just be able to parry off Motshwarakgole’s onslaught. Many of the affiliates, especially those from the public service unions, have reaffirmed their commitment to the current BFTU leadership saying that they are totally against the polarization of the labour movement as it worked to weaken their bargaining power with government.

An official from the federation said that the recent developments are in direct contrast to the theme of the previous delegates’ congress at which the current leadership was elected.

”Motshwarakgole’s intentions, if true, are detrimental to the current leadership’s mission of building a viable labour movement for democracy, social dialogue and sustainable development,” he said.

He said that the formation of another federation will cripple the labour movement and upset the tripartite relationship of government business and labour.

”We must present a united front and speak with one voice. Our strength lies in our numbers,” he said.
But it seems the majority of civic labour unions in Botswana have shunned Motshwarakgole’s call to arms, preferring to rally behind the BFTU. Though Motshwarakgole announced that he had the backing of the Botswana Public Employees Union, most of the civil labour organizations have unanimously condemned his intentions.

Recently, the Botswana Local Authorities Workers Union made a clarion call to all labour movements in Botswana to rally behind the BFTU and lend support to the embattled federation.

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The Telegraph October 21

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 21, 2020.