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BOFEPUSU to release hit list before October

The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) will anytime from now call a congress ahead of the October polls at which it will draw a list of Parliamentary candidates who should not be elected by its members in this year’s general elections.

According to reports, the congress is likely to take place within the next few weeks following the conclusion of the ongoing radio debates which have been taking place at different constituencies by the National radio stations, Radio Botswana and Duma FM. BOFEPUSU president, Johannes Tshukudu confirmed this in an interview this week. “As the federation leadership we are about to meet to decide on which political party  to support come October 23rd as well as related issues like hit-lists of any politician against the workers. This will happen anytime from today. I may not be sure due to tight schedules of union leaders but very soon.”

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. Botswana Congress Party President, Dumelang Saleshando was the only opposition member who was targeted, and as fate would have it he went on to lose to Dr Phenyo Butale, then of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

For now the union is still assessing and it is highly likely that more of the opposition members could be included in the hit list. BOFEPUSU in 2014 emphasized its support for UDC, a party which was formed at the height of a three-month long national public service strike in April 2011. BOFEPUSU then agreed to work with the party as a revolutionary force against the BDP regime with at aim to help UDC to power. In turn the UDC promised to respect worker’s rights at all times.

However this time the union is still not sure as to which party to throw their support behind. “2019 polls will be different from those of 2014. Political parties have increased and political guards have changed with some political parties. All these are some of the issues that need to be considered in deciding which party to support,” Tshukudu told this publication.

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-recognize trade unions among factors that shows 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 might put the BDP and its candidates on the cliff as trade unions believe those suggestions by the consultants should have been implemented by now.

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 sometimes in March but it is not yet out.

BOFEPUSU is an umbrella union for five civil service unions, comprising of; 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) and Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU).

According to Johnson Motshwarakgole in the past elections the five unions with a membership of over 70 000 government employees agreed to oust Khama’s leadership through the Thaba Thula convention of 2011 when Khama and his Ministers failed to reasonably address the worker’s concerns.

“When workers demanded salary increment in 2011 and went on a strike, Khama did not care at all and said that even if we were to strike for five years, he did not care. Individual unions used to have bargaining structures. For instance NALCGPWU, had what was called the National joint industrial class coordinating committee, but such structures have long been replaced by the national bargaining Council which the President and his official do not respect anymore,” Motshwarakgole said then.

BFTU RELEASES WORKERS MANIFESTO

On the other hand Botswana Federation of Trade Union (BFTU) is maintaining their 2014 stance of being non-partisan. The union has nonetheless released a 22 paged manifesto in which they address issues of unemployment, labour migration, public safety education and human resource development. BFTU says any candidate or political party relishing their vote will have to address how he will tackle points they have in the manifesto. 

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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