An announcement by the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) that it will align itself with parties that support the workers’ cause during the 2014 general elections has divided the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)
Sunday Standard has turned up information that, in a bid to save their seats in parliament, BDP parliamentarians from marginal constituencies are pushing the party to review its current relationship with workers unions while those from safe constituencies are resisting the proposal.
In an interview on the sidelines of the announcement of the just ended Letlhakeng West by elections, BDP Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, confirmed that such issues have arisen within the BDP, adding that the party is handling them.
“Yes, we are continuously handling that. We have learnt about allegations that some MPs fear that the relationship between government and Unions could affect them. In fact, we have those MPs who raised such issues.┬á But we have a process that we use to handle such matters,” he said.
Sources say even President Ian Khama has begged those from marginal constituencies not to quit active politics. The MPs in question are also understood to have informed the party that they would consider standing for the General Elections only if they are given Cabinet posts.
A source close to Tati MP Charles Tibone said: “He is one of the MPs that were approached by the President to change his mind and stand for the 2014 General Elections. That party fears that should he not stand for the elections, it might lose the constituency to the opposition.”
The MP could not be reached for comment as his phone was off.
Observers say Khama and the BDP’s fears are not unfounded as the Manual Workers Union, which is affiliated to BOFEPU, is partly credited with helping the Barata party faction win the party’s central committee elections in 2009. Prior to the BDP’s Kanye Congress, the Union had issued a number of press statements, expressing solidarity with the same faction.
Still in 2009, with few days left before General Elections, the Manual Workers Union leadership issued leaflets and campaign posters lobbing voters to reject senior members of the A-Team faction of the BDP calling them “enemies of the people”.
In a previous interview, BOFEPUSU Labour Secretary, Johnson Motshwarakgole, said they would implore federation members to ensure that all their family members are registered to vote in the coming general elections to ensure their freedom and a de-campaign of what he termed enemies of the working class.
The relationship between the government has been strained by their differences on salary increase. The unions believe that the BDP should be punished through the vote since it is the party in power and can also influence decisions at governance level.