Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) partner, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has taken a position on the on the perceived rivalry between Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) and the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU).
Things heated up when BOPEU was represented in one of the court cases by the BCP Presidential spokesperson, Martin Dingake. BCP underscores that BOFEPUSU and BOPEU cordial relations are key to good industrial relations amongst Botswana‘s workforce. In an interview this week, BCP spokesperson, who is also Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse observed with concern the ensuing volatile industrial relations especially in the public service.
“We have noted particularly the rivalry between BOFEPUSU affiliated unions and BOPEU which culminated in protracted court battles about the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) and 3%/4% salary increment,” he said. According to Keorapetse, the BCP seeks to make it clear that it has resolved not to take a side of either BOFEPUSU or BOPEU. “We are of the view that it is in the best interest of the public service industrial relations that the two formations work together for purposes of collective bargaining.”
According to BCP, only the employer, being the government, stands to benefit from the stand off and the animosity that exists between BOFEPUSU and BOPEU. “Just as the BCP has heeded the call from trade unions to cooperate with other opposition parties in the interest of democracy and Batswana, we encourage not only BOFEPUSU and BOPEU to work together but we also employ the two big federations, being BOFEPUSU and BFTU to join forces for better working conditions of the workers,” said Keorapetse.
“Labour Unions and federations cooperation is just as important as opposition cooperation. It is not helping for BOFEPUSU and BOPEU to be fighting at the door of the PSBC, the duo and other recognized public sector unions should dialogue and engage the government on an inclusive and workable mechanism of participation at the PSBC,” he added. Keorapetse said the BCP believes the current PSBC Constitution has to be reviewed in the interests of civil servants and their unions and federations.
“The government has undermined the PSBC and collective bargaining efforts and has therefore abetted acerbic industrial relations. An ordinary worker in Botswana under the BDP government is worse off; hostile labour laws are passed by parliament regularly, the President and his ministers issue repressive instruments like directives, rules and regulations and policy decisions and the government refuses to sign, ratify and domesticate some ILO Conventions,” emphasized the BCP spokesperson.
“Workers in the public service haven't received any meaningful salary increment for nearly a decade, except for inadequate inflationary adjustments. Against this backdrop, the organization and or unity is the weapon of the workers against a strong government and employers. Without unity and cooperation Labour unions and federations would be weakened and consequently unable to pursue the interests of their members,” said Keorapetse.
KEORAPETSE, RICHARD DEBATE DINGAKE’s PRINCIPLES
In the ongoing court cases between BOFEPUSU, BOPEU, and Government, BCP Presidential Spokesperson, Martin Dingake, a renowned Gaborone attorney, represented BOPEU in a case against BOFEPUSU, who supported the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in the 2014 general election.
To emphasise relations between BOFEPUSU and UDC, Advocate Duma Boko, the leader of opposition represented the Federation in the stay of execution case, which was ultimately awarded in favour of BOPEU. According to UDC members, Dingake defied principle when he represented BOPEU in a case whose intention is oppress the workers, take sides with government against BOFEPUSU.
According to the Botswana National Front Youth League (BNFYL) President (on sabbatical leave), Khumoekae Richard, opposition cadres, regardless of profession have a duty bound to defend the principle of bargaining. “It can't be right that we support any case whatsoever that undermines thousands of worker's industrial democracy, which is fulfilled through bargaining,” he says.
Motsabakedi as he is popularly known across political corridors argues that It can't be correct to have top known activists, closer to top leadership in opposition, supporting a case that would see the bargaining principle collapse of which case might have far reaching political consequences in our polity.
“In that case we creating a situation where the BDP regime would be allowed to unilaterally increase workers salaries outside bargaining council, thereby killing legitimate democratic institutions. In the future such must be avoided, and pushed away from leadership position,” said Richard.
“It will be hypocrisy and self-defeating for the opposition to condemn BDP and Khama for announcing salary increments at Moiyabana kgotla meeting, but support such a fundamentally detrimental case that would see all our efforts quashed: now wearing a different musk called profession.” But the BCP spokesperson, Keorapetse told Weekendpost that Richard’s argument does not hold water.
“That is not the issue, we’ve doctors, mechanics, shops attendants, lawyers among others who are never bothered about who their clients are. Why should a private lawyer running a practice and with professional obligation be bothered about who they represent? People raising this issue are extremely hypocritical; they conveniently forget to ask about their own party members who are either employed by BOPEU or are engaged as professionals or are doing business with BOPEU. Dingake is a private lawyer running a law firm; he's bound by the legal practitioners Act and professional ethics to represent his clients,” said Keorapetse.
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.