The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has said that it is considering steps to reduce much dependence on government.
Responding to questions from journalists at a press briefing, BOFEPUSU labour Secretary Johnson Motshwarakgole confirmed that in fact it is high time they reduce dependence on government assistance for their survival.
Observers say the reason why the government does not take the unions seriously is because of too much reliance on it; union must exercise “a little bit of autonomy for it to bite harder.”
“We are planning to have full time Secretary Generals. In fact plans are at an advanced stage to do that,” he said.
Motshwarakgole’s comment come at a time when the head of the Directorate of Public Service Management Carter Morupisi recently terminated the secondment of the secretary generals of trade unions and recalled them to the public service.
BOFEPUSU Publicity Secretary Goretetse Kekgonegile shared Motshwarakgole’s sentiments. But he revealed that Unions and
Employers Organisations Act (TUEOA) confer some organizational rights to unions and the rights flow from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards.??“While we agree that it is high time that there is need for the unions to be independent, the government should follow the right procedure in terminating the unions’ organizational rights,” he said.
On the withdrawal of the secondment of Secretary Generals, Kekgonegile said the Public Service Act is binding on an individual employee seconded to the union.
”Our interpretation is that the Trade Union Employer’s Act is silent on what unions should say and not do,” said Kekgonegile.
He added that the “employer is deliberately misinterpreting these issues in an effort to destabilise the federation and instil fear in BOFEPUSU so that we shy away from advocating for issues affecting the working class.” Kekgonegile is of the view that trade unions by nature are political entities.
“But some individuals are of the view that because they are politicians they are the ones who can only comment on political issues, which is wrong and we don’t buy into that,” he said.
Accusing Morupisi of misdirecting himself on his recent decision to withdraw secondment of secretary generals, Kekgonegile said when the secretary general’s utter statements while representing unions; it is the unions who utter the statements not individuals.
“We reached a stalemate on these matters and agreed to interrogate these things; what was the wisdom of Parliament to enact such an act. But we are not surprised by the latest development and not intimidated. We will continue to shape the political landscape of this country,” said Kekgonegile. He observed that what the DPSM director had done amounted to contempt of court.
“What he has done flies in the face of a judgment by Justice Lot Moroka. When we took them to court we won and they lost; they didn’t challenge the judgement. We will go back to court and challenge his decision because what he has done is contempt of court,” said Kekgonegile.
Responding to a question from a journalist who wanted to know how much the union intends to invest on the sponsorship of those seeking political office ahead of the 2014 general elections, BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari explained that their intention is to offer moral support not money.
“We are not going to give the people money but we are going to give them moral support,” he said adding that they don’t have the names of their members of who aspire to run for political office.
On government’s withdrawal from the bargaining council, BOFEPSUSU Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa said they were shocked at the reasons advanced by Morupisi for the withdrawal; linked them to the union leaders’ involvement in active politics.
“It is just an excuse. They should have lodged a dispute with the commissioner of labour to say we are aggrieved but they didn’t take that step,” said Motshegwa.
According to Motshegwa, from the onset, the employer had not wanted the bargaining council to be operational.
The secretary generals affected by Morupisi’s decision are Ketlhalefile Motshegwa of the Botswana Land Boards and Local Authorities Workers Union BLLAWU, Tobokani Rari of The Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), and Ibo Kenosi of the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU).
It is understood that last straw that broke the camel’s back was when a list of the candidates that the unions urged its members not to vote for during the 2014 general elections was publicised in the media. They are six Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) politicians; Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Mokgweetsi Masisi, Minister of Health, Dr. John Seakgosing, Minister of Sport, Youth and Culture, Shaw Kgathi, Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu, Assistant Minister of Health, Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri and Gaborone south MP, Kagiso Molatlhegi. Speculation is also rife that since Morupisi reports to Masisi the minister must also have influenced the decision to withdraw the secondment of secretary generals and suspension of bargaining council.
Meanwhile the case in which BOFEPUSU wants Morupisi to answer to contempt of court charges was postponed to 17 September 2013 by Justice Moroka.