Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Songs not musical to the ear

Less than a month after the head of the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) complained about songs of the public sector unions that denigrate political leaders, the Botswana Sector of Educators Union (BOSETU) is still singing the same tune.

A few weeks ago, DPSM boss, Carter Morupisi, wrote a letter to BOSETU complaining about some of its songs, which don’t sound musical to his ears. Last Thursday when BOSETU held its Primary Sector Leadership Forum at the Botswana National Productivity Centre, Union president, Shandukani Hlabano, said that but for an examination going on not too far away from the conference room, they would be singing those same songs that DPSM doesn’t like.

An hour or so later when, apparently, the exam was over, delegates sang a song urging the Minister of Education and Skills Development, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, and Btv to tell the truth because “I’m tired of lies.”

Curiously, when the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions, of which BOSETU is a member, held its inaugural congress a fortnight ago, it was members of those same unions themselves who expressed misgivings about their own songs.

One of the house rules that organisers wanted delegates to observe was with regard to “divisive songs that are unrelated to the workers struggle”.

One delegate leader found this requirement a bit too problematic, wanted to find out what those songs were and expressed concern that the Union may end up without songs if this rule was to be adopted. This was an elective congress and in answering this question, BOFEPUSU’s publicity secretary, Goretetse Kekgonegile, gave as an example a song that praises one candidate while pouring scorn on another. A related congress rule forbade the “displaying of any posters, wearing of T-shirts and circulation of material in support of any candidate in the BOFEPUSU election will not be allowed inside the conference hall”.

When they embarked on an eight-week strike last year demanding pay raise, civil servants whiled away the plentiful amount of time they had on their hands by singing struggle songs that (naturally) did not portray the political leadership in good light. After the strike, BOSETU hosted an event at which Venson-Moitoi was officiated. One of the songs performed at the event lamented the “ministerlessness” of teachers, an obvious reference to the teachers’ perception of Venson-Moitoi’s capability as a minister.

At the BOFEPUSU congress, the vice president, Othusitse Tsalaile, asked delegates to sing the one song from last year’s industrial strike that they like the most. The selection was “Sebatana se mariri” which is about an unpurposed “hairy wild animal” which has neither a girlfriend nor a child. The song leaves no doubt in the mind as to who the subject is.

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