Journalists and other media workers, through their trade union Botswana Media and Allied Workers Union (BOMAWU), have been cautioned against procrastination on affiliation to a labour federation to enjoy support and safety in numbers. The warning was sounded by Secretary for Labour at BOFEPUSU, Johnson Motshwarakgole, on Thursday morning during the handing over of a petition by media workers to management of Gabz Fm. The petition is part of a protest against the indefinite suspension of journalists Reginald Richardson and Keikantse Shumba; presenter and producer respectively of the popular morning show, Breakfast with Reg. The duo was slapped with an indefinite suspension on Monday after reporting for work on Friday at the end of another 10 day suspension. Motshwarakgole warned Gabz Fm management and owners to guard against being hijacked by ruling party elites to pursue selfish interests at the expense of media freedom and thriving journalism. He warned that should Gabz Fm fail to abide by the principles of good journalism, the federation and its associates will alienate the radio station and withdraw support. In fact, in protest BOFEPUSU has cancelled a deal worth thousands of Pula where Gabz Fm was scheduled to provide live broadcast of a three-day labour symposium starting November 30, Motshwarakgole revealed. The contract has been offered to their competitor, Duma Fm.
In the petitioned signed by BOMAWU president Philimon Mmeso, the union demands immediate and unconditional reinstatement of the two journalists to their duties and responsibilities without any fear of victimisation and intimidation. "We implore the Gabz Fm management to desist from violating their employee’s civil right of freedom of expression and information. Failure to acquiesce the above mentioned demands within the next 14 days would indicate that the organization has no interests in the rights of their employees. We would be left with no option but to seek legal recourse, including resorting to a private prosecution for these atrocious acts," reads part of the petition. Receiving the petition, Acting Station Manager, Kenneth Moeng promised to present it before management and to respond to its contents within the 14 days. A number of opposition politicians and trade union activists also attended the protest march in solidarity, among them Gaborone Mayor Kagiso Thutlwe, UDC spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa and Gaborone North MP Haskins Nkaigwa.
Drawing similarities between BOFEPUSU and the biblical Noah's Ark, Motshwarakgole said the federation has sufficient powers and experience to fight abuses in workplaces and bargain for better conditions for media workers, but only if they are affiliates. "You have to come out clear and say whether you are with us or you are nowhere," he said, to animated nods from BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari and his deputy Ketlhalefile Motshegwa who were in attendance. The warning from the federation comes after months of speculation about who BOMAWU is affiliated to as the union has in the past enjoyed support from both BOFEPUSU and BOPEU-led Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU). In the past, the leadership of BOFEPUSU secretly threatened to withdraw their support complaining about lack of appreciation from the media workers union and confusion over who their friends are. BOMAWU has in the past publicly declared that they are not affiliated to either of the federations. BFTU and BOFEPUSU do not see eye to eye.