Ahead of the 2014 General Elections, Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatals Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) cajoled the opposition parties to form an alliance that could dislodge the ruling party, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) from power. This resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) which changed the political landscape of the country as for the first time BDP got less than 50% of the popular vote.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, BOFEPUSU President Johannes Tshukudu sang a different tune regarding supporting politicians ahead of the 2019 General Elections. Unlike in 2014 when they supported the UDC due to the ill treatment they received from BDP led government, Tshukudu said that they are going to focus on parliamentary and council candidates rather than the political parties.
“No political party must fool themselves about our support in 2019 as it is not guaranteed. We wil rather will interrogate their manifestos and the caliber of candidates they bring,” he said.
Recently there have been allegation that some within the UDC leadership want to contests constituencies which belonged to the expelled Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), but Tshukudu denied the claim.
Let Masisi rule
Reacting to the current impasse between president Masisi and his predecessor Ian Khama, Tshukudu called upon them to mend their differences for the sake of the country and called upon elders to mediate. “We know that during his presidency, Khama once told former Presidents Festus Mogae and the late Sir Ketumile Masire to stop trying to rule from the grave when they tried to intervene during the 2011 industrial strike. Maybe it is time he is told to leave Masisi to govern,” he said.
Taking the cue from Tshukudu, BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari revealed top of their workers agenda is the country wide campaign and demonstrations for the introduction of the living wage. As it is the elections season, he said that they will gauge the character of the current MPs through the issue.
In June this year, Member of Parliament for Jwaneng/Mabutsane Shawn Ntlhaile brought a motion calling for the enactment of a decent living wage policy. The motion was rejected by parliament especially from the ruling party. The motion nearly passed after the Speaker declared that ‘the yes had it’ but Member of Parliament for Shoshong Phillip Makgalemele called for division and following individual votes (button pressing) 15 MP's voted against the motion while only 12 voted for the motion.
According to Rari this greatly disturbed the federation as they feel that it is the responsibility of government to protect its citizens against the multinational companies who are only interested in profit making rather than improving the lives of its workers. Speaking in his usual animated voice to stress a point, Rari said that they will not relent but push government to introduce the decent living wage policy.
He lamented that workers especially in the private sector including the media industry have their rights violated at willy nilly. “Some media houses are intimidating their employees from unionizing. This is an issue that we will address and expose them,” he fired the warning shot.
Immediately after assuming the presidency, President Masisi started to engage different stakeholders amongst them BOFEPUSU leadership, a move hailed as moving in the right directions. In October, Public Sector Unions were shocked when government through the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) Goitseone Mosalakatane proceeded to derecognize them.
Rari took a swipe at Mosalakatane saying he doesn’t understand the attitude of her towards the public sector unions. “We cannot be required to comply with Section 46 of the PSA when we were recognized by Section 48 of the Trade Unions and Employers Organisation Act. The law does not apply retrospectively,” he explained.
The five Public Sector Unions has since taken the matter to court and the application will be heard before the Francistown Industrial Court on the 26th of November 2018.
During his State of the Nation Address, President Masisi revealed that government has appointed a consultant PEMANDU Associates of Malaysia to review the current public service remuneration system in terms of salaries, allowances and benefits. “The consultancy work is expected to be concluded before the end of December this year. Once the PEMANDU report has been finalized, government will engage public sector unions on the recommendations thereto,” said President Masisi in his SONA.
Responding to that, Rari said DPSM Director has misled the President as the report has long been completed and they are refusing to share with the Public Sector Unions. On the 4th of October the five Public Sector Unions wrote to DPSM requesting a meeting to discuss the report as there is limited time due to the fact that the budgetary process for the 2019/20 process has already commenced.
Rari said that they didn’t receive any response from the DPSM Director Mosalakatane yet she informed the President that they are going to engage the Public Sector Unions.