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Has the new party (AP) divided BOFEPUSU?

The newly formed Alliance for Progressives (AP) may divide the leadership of Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) as recent developments may force re-alignment in labour politics.

Leading figures of BOFEPUSU Johnson Motshwarakgole, who is the Labour Secretary and Tobokani Rari, the Secretary General attended the announcement of party new formation on Wednesday this week. The duo among others has declared their support for Ndaba Gaolathe during the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) factional battles that led to the split in the party.

BOFEPUSU is made up of the Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and National Amalgamated, Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU) as well as other unions in private sector, making it the biggest and the most influential labour movement in Botswana.

This week, Gaolathe led group bolted out of the UDC coalition and announced the formation of a new political party. The formation of a new party has been a matter of speculation since the bloody and violent Matshekge Congress in Bobonong, which produced parallel National Executive Committees (NEC) for BMD, both claiming legitimacy.  Allegedly, this has however created a rift in the BOFEPUSU leadership because the federation was given a mandate to support a united opposition at its last year’s July Congress.

In the recent past, Rari had also hinted at the possibility of re-arrangement of furniture, a statement deduced to mean changing of political alignment ahead of 2019 general elections. The need to “re-arrange furniture” may compel the federation to go back to the membership to seek a new mandate. This week, the Deputy Secretary General of BOFEPUSU, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa down played the recent developments in an interview with one of the local Radio Stations, insisting that the federation will support ‘a united opposition” as per congress resolution.

A leading member of BOFEPUSU who is also President of Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), Thatayoane Mokhurutshe has indicated his support for UDC president in the wake of the formation of a new party – AP. This publication also understands that Mokhurutshe is of the view that the Goalathe group bolted earlier rather than wait for the mediation process.

Mokhurutshe told this publication that the “4th of May BOFEPUSU Congress reiterated its support for UDC and such would only change if there is another resolution.” He however stated that people are reading a lot from personal preferences of individuals to the position of BOFEPUSU. BOFEPUSU secretary general, Rari said there is no division in the BOFEPUSU leadership with regard to choosing between AP and UDC.

“There is nothing that has changed regarding the well-known BOFEPUSU political standard. Of course we acknowledge the latest development in the political space of the country,” he said. “These are circumstances that we are closely watching and we would like to take a back seat and watch as things unfold. It’s too early for us to be mingling; we may at a later stage step into the fray in a conciliatory tone.”  At the memorial of Gomolemo Motswaledi, the late president of BMD, Motshwarakgole called for the formation of a ‘new movement’ as the only way resolve the problems facing BMD and by extension the UDC. Speaking indirectly, Motshwarakgole said they should not create ‘a dictator’ like the BDP has done with President Lt Gen Ian Khama.

Reports are growing thick and fast to the effect that there is a huge fall-out between BOFEPUSU leadership and UDC leader Duma Boko. Insiders reveal that the fall-out has been a result of a belief by BOFEPUSU that the UDC does not value the former’s contribution to the UDC since formation. Weekend Post has found out that BOFEPUSU is of the view that the UDC leader has acted in bad faith by ‘sidelining’ opposition cooperation convenors in the talks that led to the arrival of Botswana Congress Party (BCP). BOFEPUSU’s position is also shared by Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) as well as BNF Vice President, Rev Prince Dibeela.

However, reliable sources indicated that Boko has shown his resentment towards BOFEPUSU for wanting to exert control in UDC affairs. According to reports, the source of the rift between BOFEPUSU and UDC came in the wake of the arrival of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and a later the resolution adopted by the Botswana National Front (BNF) to mediate between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU following an acrimonious relationship which has been playing out in public domain since 2015.

The deterioration in relations was set in motion by BOFEPUSU’s decision to endorse UDC ahead of 2014 general elections, while BOPEU was strongly against endorsing any political party. Since then the leadership of the two unions has exchanged words in public domain. Recently BOFEPUSU accused BOPEU of conniving with government to collapse the country’s bargaining council. BOFEPUSU were of the view that BOPEU was working against the interest of the workers.

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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

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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