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Boko roots for BOFEPUSU, BOPEU reconciliation

Publishing Date : 24 July, 2017


President of Botswana National Front (BNF) Duma Gideon Boko has coded that the warring trade union foes, Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and trade union members of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) should smoke the peace pipe.

BOPEU disaffiliated from the union federation under discordant circumstances which were followed by an acidic rivalry that is still ongoing. Apart from BOPEU, BOFEPUSU member unions that have since remained with the mother body include Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Manuals Workers Union and Botswana Land Board & Local Authorities & Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU).

At the recently ended BNF Conference held at Kgalagadi South constituency in Kang, Boko said that the BOFEPUSU, BOPEU rivalry should cease. Boko’s stance also echoed the party resolutions arrived at at the end of the conference. A brief report from the conference stated that “the BNF Central Committee to help BOFEPUSU and BOPEU resolve their current differences. BNF is a mass movement organisation and takes labour issues seriously. It wants to see a united workforce.” The resolutions came from three groups which were known as Commissions which were set up to discuss the reports and speeches and bring resolutions and recommendations at the end.

Therefore in essence the resolution and other recommendations emanated from the Regional Reports; Treasure General; Secretary General and the President’s Reports and speeches. In light of the distinct resolution at the conference, it however did not come as a ‘bolt from the blue’ to many as Boko had extended a comparable gesture earlier, when he defied his party faithfuls and BOPEU rivals, and officiated at the BOPEU commemoration of Workers Day in May earlier this year.

He was at the event received with both coldness and ululations as he delivered a message of solidarity at the gathering which was in Palapye. The unexpected gesture was seen as part of the opposition leader’s continued endeavour to mediate between the two union foes and bring them together again. The relationship between BOFEPUSU and BOPEU took an irreparable knock in the build up to the 2014 General Elections when the former took a position to support the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change for what they termed “friendly labour laws”.

At the time, their association with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) had deteriorated to its lowest, punctuated by smugness and arrogance between the labour centre and the ruling party. Following the move, BOPEU later at its congress in 2015 took a resolution to gain autonomy from the federation as they believed the union should focus exclusively on labour issues against the position of BOFEPUSU. BOFEPUSU’s stance was that since labour issues are by nature political, the best way to deal with them was to take the political route.

However, for Boko and his party, BNF, which relied heavily on the support of BOFEPUSU towards the 2014 General Elections, there is desperate need to untie the warring unions. The UDC leader who is also the Gaborone Bonnington North law maker is widely cherished for being the architect of the concord of the main opposition parties BNF, Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) who stood collectively to compete against the ruling BDP in the 2014 Elections.Following a sterling performance at the elections, with the party pulling 17 constituencies in the bag for the first time, against BCP’s 3, the latter there later resolved to join the UDC and are expected to contest the 2019 General Elections as one unit.  
Boko’s skills of unifying different groups will be tested again in the BOFEPUSU, BOPEU skirmish.



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