BOFESETE President Eric Ditau has warned the Botswana labour movement to brace for unrest within their organization and the purging of union leadership, especially with the sanctioning of the Intelligence Bill which he said is the beginning of the use of government apparatus to dominate the working class.
Speaking at a recent delegate’s conference, Ditau said despite the fact that trade unions recognize the tripartite relationship between the labour, the employer and the state, government has occupied center stage and ignores the role of the labour movement. Ditau added that the Trade Disputes Act, the Employment Act and the Teaching Service Management Act are all outdated and overtaken by contemporary events and it is time that the government, in consultation with all the stakeholders, revisited these laws.
“This is further compounded by the fact that despite ratification of core international labour organization conventions, our government still refuses to domesticate such laws but still continues to score political points during ILO conventions,” he said.
On privatization, Ditau said that BOSETU will not succumb to government’s neo liberal stance which seeks to reduce the voice of the proletariat in the formulation of national policies. He condemned the ministry of education’s intolerance to teacher organizations saying that the ministry continues to make far reaching decisions without consulting with the teacher organizations. Ditau went on to dismiss the teaching service consultative council as a toothless bulldog that has failed to meet the teachers representation at the high level consultative council.
Jean Sithole, the Secretary General of the Swaziland Confederation of Trade Unions, said, unlike in the colonial era when politicians patronized the labour movement because they were partners in the struggle for independence, the leadership of today despises the labour movement as elements of the opposition to the ruling class.
”It is the consistency of workers in challenging bad governance and corruption that has put us at loggerheads with today’s leadership,” he said.
Whilst governments fail to understand the concept of justice and fairness, Sithole said, injustice remains injustice irrespective of who does it and silence in the face of such injustice makes the silent party as guilty as the perpetrator, adding that the labour movement will not condone such.
”The leadership should understand that as men and women who, out of deep love and devotion to humanity, have endeavored to protect democracy, we are ready and willing to pay for our faith in democracy with our lives,” he said.
He added that it is not out of choice that workers everywhere are forced to become the voice of the voiceless and automatic vehicles for social transformation. “We shall continue to objectively praise good delivery and at the same time condemn corruption without fear and favour.”
Sithole added that Africa’s leaders have a tendency to ratify conventions that espouse good human rights and then turn around and become the worst violators of the very conventions that they have ratified.
Botswana was cited as a typical example because its government ratified conventions on free speech, freedom of associations and the right to collective bargaining but still does not take kindly to the execution of such rights as they are not willing to accede to the concept of full time union officials. This was cited as proof of Botswana government’s aberration to the rule of equity and fairness.
Sithole went on to say that, based on the concept that taxation without participation is tantamount to tyranny, the labour movement, as a major stakeholder, should continue to agitate for equal representation in national policy formulation. He added that to achieve their mandate of advocating for social justice and decent employment, the labour movement must remain relevant to the concepts of solidarity so that they are able to negotiate with government with one voice.