Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions’ (BOFEPUSU), grand plan to compile a hit list and a political party to endorse for this year’s highly contested elections is faced with boardroom clashes; this comes in the backdrop of divisions within the committee over candidates and a party to support.
The federation leadership had agreed in July, that they will consult the membership and ultimately meet to decide on the two issues. The idea was to mobilise the union affiliates to not vote for certain politicians who were to be identified and labelled ‘anti-workers’. Secondly, the federation which boasts of over 100,000 members, was to look at various party manifestos and see which one is friendly to the workers and ultimately recommending it to their voting bloc.
However, WeekendPost can safely reveal that the union will not release the hit-list for politicians as per the plan for one simple reason; “clock has already ticked and it will be difficult to convince workers at this time, as already they have made up their minds,” explains one leader. This argument as brought by some within the union, has compelled BOFEPUSU top brass to reverse and or suspend the idea to avoid backlash mostly from within.
“The leadership is divided on who to back so it has been decided that the best way would be just to let their members make their own decisions,” disclosed another high ranking member of the union. He continued to say; “The hit-list will also not be compiled because some wanted it to be dominated by opposition candidates which was not accepted by others in the committee. In short the plan is dead, we won’t be making hit-list or backing any party.”
In the past elections BOFEPUSU made it clear that their dreaded axe was specially designed for the ruling party and wanted most of its candidates to lose the elections. The consequences of the hit list were devastating for the ruling party as eight out of 13 targeted members lost elections starting with the primaries. Dumelang Saleshando was the only opposition member who was targeted, and as fate would have it he also lost to Dr Phenyo Butale.
The relationship between BOFEPUSU and opposition, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to be precise, dates back eight years ago, when the party was formed at the height of a 10 week-long public servants strike in, April 2011. BOFEPUSU then agreed to work with the party as a revolutionary force against the BDP regime, with the aim to help UDC win power. In turn, the UDC promised to respect worker’s rights at all times.
Meanwhile, it has been evident that the plan to have a hit list and a party to support was going to fail. Other union leaders have been snubbing the meeting in which decisions were to be taken on the two subjects. “The process for the meeting is on, we are waiting for other colleagues to confirm the suggested date,” Union President Johannes Tshukudu said in August.
Not only is the hit-list a matter within a topic within BOFEPUSU boardroom, but it is also facing a dilemma of which political party to endorse on the 23rd. The Godfather of Botswana’s trade unions, Johnson Motshwarakgole has set a tone, endorsing the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and its leader Mokgweetsi Masisi. This, informants say has also caused confusion as Masisi’s leadership has given labour movements a glimpse of hope that things might change for the better under his administration. This is after government made a salary increment for public servants and engaged union leaders on a number of matters including the implementation of PEMANDU report.
In an interview this week BOFEPUSU President Tshukudu, said they are still much on the issue. “This issue is very interesting and sensitive. There is no how way we can fail to deliberate on these issues as we meet our constitutional structures this weekend.” He also added that time was still on their side: “We have three weeks towards election time. Workers would go to the pools very fresh about the advice. You are aware that change of mind on decision making can be done even a couple of minutes before getting into the poll both. So I still maintain that it is not late. The difference is that in the past it was done early due to circumstance prevailing then.”
The government’s failure to resuscitate the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC), as well as a court case in which the Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), was seeking to de-recognise trade unions, are among the factors that show that there is need for government to do more in order to win the hearts of the workers. Failure to implement the PEMANDU report recommendations is another area that has not helped the relations between BDP and the workers.
PEMANDU has recommended 20 percent increment for public servants on grade A and B; 10 percent for grade C and D; and 15 percent for grade E and F. It further states that in the absence of increments to civil servants on higher notches, of grades E and F, “we recommend the following: 15 percent for grades A and B; 10 percent for grades C and D.”
At their congress last year BOFEPUSU members mandated the leadership to review its relationship with the UDC and produce a report. Trade unionists met at a retreat in Mmathubudikwane late last year but could not complete the report. The report was expected to be completed sometime in March, but it is not yet out.
BOFEPUSU is an umbrella union for five civil service unions, including; Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers union (BLLHWU), Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Teacher’s Union (BTU), National Amalgamated Local, Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU).
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.