Saturday, May 25, 2024

Saleshando only opposition politician on union hit list

It should come as no surprise that the Botswana Congress Party leader Dumelang Saleshando is the odd man out on the “hit list” that the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) released on Friday. At a UDC rally where party leader, Duma Boko was launched as a candidate, a parade of speakers recalled how during the process of forming the opposition coalition, Saleshando stated that those who pulled out along the way should be “punished.”

His party was unhappy about the process and dropped out now his UDC detractors told the rally that not voting for BCP would actually be implementing what its own leader recommended. At that time, it became apparent that the BCP’s leader name might just appear on the list and indeed it has. Number six on the list, Saleshando’s name, is sandwiched between Shaw Kgathi and Botlogile Tshireletso’s, both ministers (the latter a junior one) and Botswana Democratic Party parliamentary candidates.

The statement that accompanies BOFEPUSU’s hit list suggests that Saleshando, who is the presidential and Gaborone Central parliamentary candidate, would also have put two and two together to know his fate with the unions was sealed and decided to hit back. “Of recent he has engaged in attacking labour movements and their leaders in political rallies and social media, and along the way showing elements of intolerances against other people’s life status and organisational independence,” the statement says about the BCP president. This is the first time in a Botswana general election that trade unions have sought to make kings in as bold a manner as BOFEPUSU has and it remains to be seen what effect that would have on election day.

At one level, the hit list is a by-product of the 2011 strike by civil servants during which the government maintained a hard line position. President Ian Khama fatefully said that even if the strike could go on for five years, his government would still not be able to pay the salary increment that the unions demanded. “Five years” seems to have hurt trade union leaders so deeply that at Boko’s launch rally, two quoted Khama’s precise words and pointed out that October 24 will be payback time. Where the English give one a taste of their own medicine, Setswana metaphorises such kind of revenge with the equivalent of “nkwe nkgoga ke tle ke go goge, le wena o utlwe botlhoko jwa go gogwa.”

The idiom is a personification of a tug of war in which each of two evenly matched leopards feels the pain of being dragged on the hard ground during moments when it loses the upper hand to its opponent. Motshegwa used this Setswana to mean that this Friday, workers will drag Khama on the ground at polling stations to revenge for him doing the same thing to them at Gaborone Secondary School grounds (the strikers’ assembly point) back in 2011.


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