The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) strongly condemns the systematic prosecution and harassment of trade unionists and journalists by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) led government. Trade unionist and activist, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa has been subjected to a kangaroo court for doing his work as a trade unionist. The outcome of the dubious hearing was obvious as the ploy to dismiss Motshegwa was long hatched by President Ian Khamas government. Such prosecution of trade unionists and journalists (Journalist Edgar Tsimane sought asylum in South Africa) is a clear harbinger that the country has degenerated into dictatorship. Mr Motshegwa has lived up to his responsibility and civic duty as a true activist in a democratic dispensation by providing the checks and balances. He has represented the voice of his fellow workers and also strove for democracy for the whole Botswana nation. It is therefore shocking that while there is a collective recognition agreement between his union and his employer, as well as a court ruling on secondment of Secretary Generals, the BDP led Government chose to disrespect Botswana laws and High court judgment and went on to dismiss Motshegwa. This obviously sends shock waves on law abiding citizens!
It is the duty of civil society organisations (CSO) and Batswana in general to protect their civil liberties and uphold the country’s constitution, which are under serious threat under the BDP misrule. The BDP want to cling to power by all means, including intimidating and harassing CSO activists, mainly trade unionists and journalists. The BDP is also working round the clock to destabilise the opposition parties in an attempt to retain power. Batswana should therefore be on red alert as we move to the 2019 general elections which the BDP want to avoid losing at all cost.
We call on the BDP to concentrate on and solve real issues like the acute shortage of power, water, jobs and on other vices like corruption and maladministration. The education system has also collapsed under the BDP rule. The nation forever lives in fear, poverty and darkness. Batswana should therefore reject the BDP in all respect as their strategy is to divert attention from the total paralysis that the nation has been thrown under their rule.
While Motshegwa is a victim today, the next day will be another innocent motswana. It is on this basis that the victimisation and harassment of unionist Motshegwa and journalists like Edgar Tsimane, Outsa Mokone, Lawrence Seretse, etc by the state agents is not their fall alone, but a serious threat and erosion of every Motswana’s liberties. It is a well documented secret that the BDP led government next move is on Secretary Generals Tobokani Rari and Ibo Kenosi of Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union and Botswana Teachers Union respectively. In between, journalists will be incarcerated and harassed as well. Opposition activists will also be on the BDP radar for destabilisation. UDC cautioned about these acts of harassment and victimisation before the 2014 general elections, including taking over of Unigem (Pty) Ltd. Also coming in bad faith will be interference on union’s stop order facilities and giving frivolous reasons for such interference; amending the Public Service Act of 2008; amending Education Act ; Trade Disputes Act and making teachers essential so that it limits their industrial action; etc.
The ripple effect is to intimidate and instil fear amongst trade unionists and journalists for self sensorship reasons. German writer and former army commander, Martin Niemoller captured this well when he said: “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist; Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me”.
It is therefore time for all Batswana to stand up (even through demonstrations and other public activities) and defend their liberties, and remove the BDP, before its agents come for all of us! An injury to one, is an injury to all.
Cde Justin Hunyepa
UDC Labour Secretary