Opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) on Monday said they are in critical talks to forge an alliance that will see the leadership of both organisations convening monthly meetings to deliberate on issues of national importance among others.
Briefing journalists UDC President Duma Boko said they approached BOFEPUSU and proposed a number of proposals among them a high level consultative committee comprising some members of the leadership of his party and that of the unions that would be responsive to issues of national interests. The leadership will among others include the President of the UDC and secretary for labour affairs of BOFEPUSU.
“We need to be vigilant and work with the labour movement. Going forward we have submitted proposals that will see UDC and BOFEPSU working together. We also proposed that the high level committee meets on a monthly basis,’ said Boko.
He said BOFEPUSU is expected to reflect on the proposals they submitted and give the party feedback. Boko said at the request of UDC, they convened a meeting with BOFEPUSU’s leadership to reflect on a number of issues affecting the country.
“We believe that the unions should not be held hostage because they represent values that we espouse as a party. We know that there is a relentless onslaught on everybody by the ruling government,” he said.
Boko said, unlike the ruling government, they believe that the unions should participate and shape matters of national interest instead accusing them of being involved in active politics.
“We believe that the civil society should be at the forefront of shaping the future of this country. They shouldn’t be shut out of the democratic space because they represent the workers’ interests,” he said.
Boko defended their envisage alliance with unions saying it was not a marriage of convenience. He said should they assume power, they won’t hold unions hostage because the alliance was founded on shared values. Boko also stated that they intend to convene a meeting to address faith based organisations “to shape the country’s future.”
He paid tribute to BOFEUSU for being at the forefront of defending the country’s Constitution despite the union’s limited resources.
“I must congratulate the unions because they have used their limited resources to defend the country’s Constitution and they have been vindicated in Courts,” he said.
Meanwhile Boko did not have kind words for the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) saying there is need to prod the society into action so that it “wakes up from self induced stupor.”
“The Law Society has taken a backseat and our only hope is that the unions continue the role that should be done by the Law Society. If the unions don’t, the country will go down in the drain faster than it is now,” he said.
He accused LSB of focusing a lot of energy on policing its members instead of ensuring that human rights are protected.
“They have a duty to hold the leadership of the country accountable especially in trying times like this. We are disappointed that they have not pursued this role and that that space is now occupied by the unions,” said Boko.
He said some lawyers are now considering drawing up a petition separately from LSB to have some judges who have sworn their allegiance to President Ian Khama instead of the Constitution removed from the bench.
He added that such judges are not fit to hold office and litigants’ right to a fair hearing is likely to be compromised.
For his part, BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari confirmed that UDC has since proposed to them to form an official partnership.
“We intend to have a joint committee where the two of us will share ideas, articulate labour issues faced by workers in this country. We will revert to UDC after consulting our structures,” said Rari.
He also added that they won’t be held hostage by UDC should it assume power saying the union’s interest is the issue of workers welfare which they want addressed in fair manner.