THE OBSERVER: Motshwarakgole is the elephant in the room

SHARE   |   Monday, 04 April 2016   |   By Simon Gabathuse
THE OBSERVER: Motshwarakgole is the elephant in the room

Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) must just appreciate that the elephant in the room is Johnson Motshwarakgole. The storm is too much to be ignored. The thunder is so loud at the entrance. It becomes impossible to ignore the reality at face value. The lightening is threatening to burn all the files in good standing and allow the storm to scatter around the village. All the files containing information that should not be for public consumption find themselves in an exposure of naivety. This is so because the battle between Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and BOFEPUSU has reached a point of departure. When you depart without having thought such will be the case, when you find yourself in a space that you have never really thought you will, the space narrows. What we are seeing is simply Johnson Motshwarakgole caught unaware and fighting for individual survival. It is not possible that this battle has anything to do with the workers. I had thought that the battle was for the interest of the workers and when the Industrial Court Judge President ruled that both parties should go for arbitration at the bequest of the Commission of Labour, I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that finally the workers have won. BOFEPUSU has now thrown in a complicating spanner into the works, appealing the judgment. This might mean that the workers will have to wait a little longer for the Public Service Bargaining Council to convene. Matters before courts become complicated when discussed elsewhere.

BOFEPUSU has returned the matter to court, it might not be possible for the Commission of Labour to act as directed by the earlier ruling. It defeats my understanding as to how BOFEPUSU reached a position to not want to engage in dialogue with BOPEU and lay this matter to rest. I have thought Motshwarakgole wanted dialogue. I was wrong. He has not guided BOFEPUSU as I had thought he would. He has rather led a team back to the legal battle field. What a shame. BOFEPUSU must do the most honourable thing and call BOPEU to the table for an amicable solution. Those sympathising with BOFEPUSU have opted to view BOPEU as the enemy. That is a far-fetched thinking. The enemy is that which is not being publicly discussed. The enemy is the ego game at play. Motshwarakgole must just admit that this time around he has been beaten at his own game. The game must end; the workers are tired of spending the day watching this game. It has become monotonous. The movement of the game plan by BOPEU to expose the internal matters regarding the registration and legal standing of Manual Workers Union is also not being kind to him. He must view this as not only a direct poke and challenge, but as a moment where his own doing is back to haunt him. He must appreciate defeat and retreat so that the workers may have what is rightfully theirs; properly constituted representation at the Public Service Bargaining Council.

The 29th March 2016 is a day which BOPEU appeared before the Industrial Court of Appeal in a bid to oppose an application by BOFEPUSU to have their appeal of the Judgement by His Lordship Tebogo Maruping to be heard as an urgent matter. The Industrial Court President gave the matter a 35 days period, yet said it is urgent. This is a technical point. The Judge President had in his initial ruling pronounced that both parties, BOFEPUSU and BOPEU, should together with the Commission of Labour find resolve to their impending stale mate within 30 days. It has been more than two weeks now. By the time the 35 days period elapses, the 30 days period allocated by the Judge President of the Industrial Court will have long gone down the drain. That the Manual Workers Union is not properly constituted has been pronounced loud and clear. BOPEU has brought to the surface the painful truth. It must now allow us to make a distinction. But this is not the problem, the problem is that BOFEPUSU has now pushed back what it has been positing as is main cause in the initial court appearance that the salary negotiations are being delayed. In the past judgement, the Industrial Court President had ruled that both parties being BOFEPUSU and BOPEU should together with the Commissioner of Labour find an amicable resolve to their dispute and return to court within 30 days so as to make such a resolve a court order. The resolve would be that the Public Service Bargaining Council’s threshold be lowered to allow trade unions entry in their individuality as the Public Service Bargaining Council does not recognise the entry of trade unions as a collective, in the form of BOFEPUSU.

In the event that the parties are able, before the Labour Commissioner, to find resolve and reduce the threshold which current stands at just above 27 000, then an order could be made by the Industrial Court President that the Public Service Bargaining Council constitution has been changed. If this does not happen, the stalemate shall continue as only the Manual Workers Union qualifies entry into the Public Bargaining Council and the rest of the unions are closed out because of their numerical standing. But again, that BOPEU has raised a point of interdiction that Manual Workers Union is not a legally registered union, or at the very least, not properly or legally constituted raises another challenge. It then says no single trade qualifies entry into the bargaining council. To avert this crisis, Johnson Motshwarakgole being the elder must not lead his team to battle but rather lead his team to the Commissioner of Labour, to go and constructively debate the threshold, lower it and allow individual trade union entry. This will be progress made and the workers could finally get their representatives negotiate a wage increment. That BOPEU has made a public pronouncement that it is open to resolve this matter through dialogue and not through the courts should be accepted as property greasing the wheels towards finding resolve. Besides, Motshwarakgole needs this matter completed than any other person so that he can attend to the interdiction raised by BOPEU that his trade union is not a properly registered entity. That will essentially mean that his trade union is fraudulent and has been fraudulent. I can only hope and pray that BOPEU is wrong in this assertion.
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