In an unprecedented move, seven public service unions were united on Friday in their resolve to call for regime change should government refuse to adopt a lavish salary adjustment for their members ahead of 2019 elections.
They are Manual Workers Union, Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) Botswana Nurse Union (BONU) Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers’ Union (BLLAHWU) Trainers and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) Botswana teachers Union (BTU).
For the first time, the seven unions adopted a united front against the current government should it stick to its position that it would not adjust salaries for civil service beyond three percent.
BOFEPUSU President Johannes Tshukudu on Friday told reporters that despite the perceived animosity that used to exist between the unions, especially between BOFEPUSU and BOPEU, they have buried the hatchet and decided to work together on issues of common interest.
While the unions had not adopted a position on which political party to support ahead of the 2019 elections, they are of the view that the current government should be replaced should it refuse to accept its salary hike demands.
“We haven’t got the mandate as to what should happen in 2019. But as the leadership of the union members we are there to guide them. During our recent tour of the structures of our unions across the country, majority of them suggested that we should tell government to keep the three percent adjustment and we meet at the polls in 2019,” he said.
Tshukudu also revealed that some members suggested that they should engage in a go slow protest, others proposed an industrial action while others said the best thing was to punish the current government at the polls.
“Our members also suggested that political parties that have the interest of the workers at heart should start to take themselves seriously. In a nutshell civil servants are very disappointed and hurt by government’s position that it would stick to its three percent salary adjustment. We will jointly announce our position later as far as 2019 is concerned,” he said.
He said in 2011 BOFEPUSU sent a similar message to politicians ahead of the 2014 general election and after the election the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) recorded a historic decline in its popular vote(46.7 percent).
According to Tshukudu, civil service unions had proposed a 12 percent salary adjustment but government proposed a three percent inflationary adjustment to public service employees.
In response, trade unions later proposed a 6.6 salary adjustment but government rejected the proposal.
Trainers and Allied Workers Union (TAWU), Allan Keitseng also explained that they were projecting what “our membership is saying.”
Keitseng said it would be improper to suggest “members would vote A or B. What they are saying is that 2019 is an election year and let’s go and vote for those who have our interests at heart.”
BOFEPUSU’s organizing secretary, Johnson Motshwarakgole said the country should brace for what happened in 2014 when those perceived to have no interest of the workers at heart lost during elections.
“When government refuses to adjust salaries for civil servants as it is the case, the workers know very well what to do in 2019. In fact they don’t have to ask for guidance from the leadership because they are the ones who are at receiving end,” he said.
According to Motshwarakgole, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi will have to decide whether he is on the side of the workers or not before 2019.
BOFEPUSU, led by Motshwarakgole issued a 2014 hit list targeting some BDP MPs and leader. BDP took the threats for granted and never countered them.
Some of the legislators targeted by the BOFEPUSU members included, Kitso Mokaila, Daniel Kwelagobe, Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, Shaw Kgathi, Keletso Rakhudu, and Mokgweetsi Masisi. Six Cabinet members seeking re-election tumbled- Mokaila, Johnnie Swartz, Rakhudu, Matlhabaphiri, Patrick Masimolole and Olebile Gaborone.