President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s move to make a u-turn on the resuscitation of Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) and instead de-recognise trade unions last week has put his administration under heavy scrutiny in relation to trade unionism in Botswana.
The move effectively means that over 65 000 public officers in the public service are no longer effectively represented in the public service. The unions’ loss of recognition status also means that they cannot validly participate in negotiations for the revival of the PSBC. Public Sector trade unions Botswana Land boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers’ Union (BLLAHWU), Botswana Sectors of Educators’ Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and National Amalgamated Local Central Government & Parastatal Workers’ Union then this week dragged government to the Industrial Court to fight de-recognition.
In the affidavit before court passed to Weekend Post this week the unions are worried that their members will not only lose confidence and faith in the unions, they are likely to terminate their membership of the Applicant as a result of the loss of recognition. The unions through Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) said in the papers that as a result of the loss of recognition they may no longer be able to collect subscriptions from their members.
“This is because they will lose the contractual and statutory rights to have check-off facilities administered on their behalf. Funeral schemes and other group schemes that the unions operate using the check-off facilities may collapse if premiums and subscriptions are not being collected using the check-off facilities that the Applicants currently enjoy by virtue of their recognition,” BOFEPUSU National Organising Secretary Johnson Motshwarakgole stated in the court affidavits.
Government derecognized the trade unions in a letter dated 16 October 2008, stressing that they were not entitled to continued recognition in terms of the Public Service Act. “The contentious letter raises serious doubt as to the validity of the continued recognition of the unions. It effectively suggests that the unions have no entitlement whatsoever to continue to be recognised.
The reason that is given for the submission that unions are no longer entitled to recognition is that the government has no record of their compliance with Section 46 of the Public Service Act. The letter concludes by giving the unions until 31st July 2019 to comply with the provisions of section 46,” Motshwarakgole stated in the court affidavits. BOFEPUSU further states that the date of 31 July 2019 is meaningless to them because they have no intention whatsoever to seek recognition afresh in terms of section 46 of the Public Service Act.
“As far as they are concerned their recognition which predates the promulgation of section 46 of the Public Service Act continues to be valid and has up until recently been regarded as if it were as valid as recognition that has been granted under section 46 of the Public Service Act. It is the Applicants’ respectful position that they are entitled to all the rights and privileges that a trade union is entitled to under section 46 of the Public Service Act,” Motshwarakgole asserted in the papers.
He said in the affidavit that government will not be prejudiced in anyway, and that for at least the last eight years the government has conducted itself as if the unions were for all intents and purposes validly recognised; with all the rights and privileges that flow from recognition, including the right to participate at the PSBC. He added that there therefore cannot be any harm if what has prevailed for the last eight years can be extended for a few more months pending the outcome of an application for final relief.
In 2017 the PSBC became defunct after Manual Workers Union resolved to pull out of the PSBC. The union’ decision to pull out of the PSBC was the result of being frustrated about the Khama government being continuously found, in dispute after dispute that came before the courts, to have bargained in bad faith. The other unions could not get admission to the PSBC on their own. This is because on a proper interpretation of the constitution of the PSBC they must be at least one union that on its own meets the one third threshold for admission into the PSBC.
In any event it is understood that the unions have attempted to have the Minister of Presidential affairs, Governance and Public Administration Nonofo Molefhi mediate a settlement of the dispute between the parties. Motshwarakgole continued: “the settlement discussions did not bear any fruit. The Attorney General seems to have taken the position that the Director of Public Service Management is correct in contending that the unions need to be recognised in terms of section 46 of the PSA in order to continue enjoying some of the rights and privileges that they have in the past enjoyed.”
Furthermore, it is understood that the parties’ desire to re-establish the PSBC may be frustrated. This, notwithstanding that, President Masisi made the revival of the PSBC one of his government’s priorities. In fact under his leadership, the government undertook to have the PSBC up and running by the end of September 2018. Masisi who took over from former President Ian Khama who also gave trade unions a torrid time ending up rendering the PSBC dysfunctional, also failed to reach his deadline and eventually de-recognising the unions.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.