Welcome on board Botswana Progressive Workers Union

SHARE   |   Monday, 22 August 2016   |   By Simon Gabathuse
Union members during the 2011 strike Union members during the 2011 strike

After denying that they were forming a new trade union, comrades have come out to confirm that they have indeed formed a new trade union. This development shall go a long way in helping up shape a conversation on the painful truths that we continue to avoid as a society. With only a population of 2 million people and a fraction of that being in the formal employment, particularly the government payroll, the number of trade unions says a lot about us with regard to collective bargaining. The new union has confirmed that it is a breakaway of Botswana Land Boards Local Authorities & Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU). Among the reasons advanced is that there are corrupt, nepotistic and untrustworthy characters masquerading as leaders at BLLAHWU. To further explain their reason for bolting out, the leadership of the splinter union has given the BLLAHWU Burial Society disputes on autonomy as a thorn of BLLAHWU’s existence. The list of their accusations and allegations is endless. Whether it is perception or real is of no substance at this stage. What is of essence is that they have established a different entity. The new union has also made it clear that they are for membership purposes targeting all Government employees; hence they will be recruiting from all unions. Nothing has been said about the benefits of belonging to the newly trade union. One wonders about the strategies and incentives they have in their recruitment drive.

BLLAAHWU has not been at peace with itself over a long time. One would have thought their mother union, BOFEPUSU, would have long intervened to help them find a resolve to their woes. But that was not possible as BOFEPUSU is also blamed for numerous ills and doings by the same founders of Botswana Progressive Workers Union. The problem at BOFEPUSU where power has been centralised in the hands of few individuals is also been cited as amongst the reason of forming a new union. Basically it is a protest decision. We can also not shy away from mentioning that amongst the crop of new leaders at this new union are those who have on more than one occasion tried their luck at leadership elections of their former union only in vain. It is yet to be observed if the new union will affiliate to BOFEPUSU or the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions. But it seems that the logical thing at the moment is for BFTU to come to the party and assist the current impulse as it seems Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions has not been helpful. BOFEPUSU has not been focused on the health of its affiliates, or its own health as a federation, but has been more concerned and focused on partisan politics and being a shoulder to cry on for the collective opposition. Though this has not sat down well with some sections of BOFEPUSU, the federation has not changed tack. It is possibly the right opportune moment for BOFEPUSU to review its strategy. Is it going to continue pretending that its active political involvement is not harming it and its affiliates?

There is a lot at stake including the employment contracts of those employed by BLLAHWU including but not limited to Comrade Ketlhalefile Motshegwa who after being unceremoniously dismissed by Government after numerous absconding from work, was hired on full time basis as Secretary General of BLLAHWU. The breakaway simply means less subscriptions for BLLAHWU. And this will inevitable affect hugely the income of BLLAHWU which has been overtime losing members to other trade unions, particularly Botswana Public Employees Union. Ketlhalefile Motshegwa’s career seems to be naturally so in the balance as even BOFEPUSU, which has of recent reported that it is going through economic anguish, will possibly not be able to hire him shall BLLAHWU not be able to renew his contract due to financial difficulties. It is also worth noting that Motshegwa, as the Secretary General of BLLAHWU, appointed in accordance with ethical standards or not, is the serving Chief Executive Officer on paper. This then implies that the buck stops with him and hence the damage done to BLLAHWU by this breakaway cannot in any way or design be divorced from him. He is responsible for that as a man at the helm.

The formation of this new union thus signifies that, despite the hype sold to the nation and workers; all is not well within BOFEPUSU. We cannot ignore the reports that came out clearly towards the recent Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) elective congress that; BTU is divided along two factions. One factions being sympathetic to BOFEPUSU and the other faction being against the affiliation of BTU to BOFEPUSU. We are told that the faction that has won elections through a lobbyist is the one sympathetic to BOFEPUSU and those who lost are against BOFEPUSU. One can safely suggest then that those who lost, together with their supporters are looking at the new trade union as a possible new home. They are also, if one was to be allowed to speculate, eyeing BOPEU as their ultimate home. This poses a problematic sphere to BOFEPUSU’s survival and relevance. We cannot pretend again not to know that BOSETU affiliates have also been shrinking in numbers. In the light of all these, then there is something wrong with BOFEPUSU, something that needs to be addressed yet is being ignored.

We can only then at this juncture say that; welcome on board Botswana Progressive Workers Union. Welcome to the terrain as we hope you will bring some form of meaningful activity and reason to the interest of the workers. What is needed the most is cohesion of the workers. Without clear objectives and following on promises made to the members upon joining, you shall equally be like the rest of those trade unions whom you are viewing as not being representative of the workers. In the meantime, BOFEPUSU must introspect!
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