A day after the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) terminated their membership to the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) and publicly endorsed the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) at a political rally, the UDC president and Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Duma Gideon Boko delivered a mouthwatering and moving speech at BOPEU May Day commemoration in Selibe Phikwe on Monday.
BOFEPUSU and BOPEU are at loggerheads over the collective bargaining process in the country. According to Boko, BOPEU and BOFEPUSU should find each other just like the opposition parties did. BOFEPUSU’s withdrawal from PSBC come shortly after they lost an appeal on the stay of execution of the Motswagole judgement against Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU). Advocate Boko represented the Johannes Tshukudu led Federation while BCP presidential spokesperson, Martin Dingake had represented BOPEU.
Boko who was invited as the guest speaker at this BOPEU May Day event just days after losing the 3/4 % salary increment stay of execution case also lectured his audience on the principles of collective bargaining and role of the government and trade unions at the negotiation table. According to Boko workers rights in Botswana will forever be trembled upon by the BDP regime if the trade unions don’t unite to forge solidarity grounds and demand well treatment of their members.
TRADE UNIONS MUST UNITE
“From here it is now very important for the Trade Unions under BOFEPUSU and BOPEU to come to one table and dialogue in the best interest of workers,” said Boko. He observed that divided labour movements can never solicit what they want from government. Boko revealed that the foundations of a united opposition were the brain child of trade union leaders. “I will not mention any names but it is common knowledge that the united opposition is where it is today because of a pivotal role union leaders played.”
The UDC President observed that it was the idea of all labour movements for opposition parties to come together and cooperate towards unseating the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) led government which has neglected the welfare of workers. “You have played a very vital role in the formation of one opposition formidable force, it is now time for you to do the same with your movements and put your house in order,” said Boko. Boko who amazingly received a shocking welcome with massive applauds from hundreds of BOPEU members shortly after the court case moved to defend BOFEPUSU-UDC relationship.
UNIONS CHOOSE POLITICAL FRIENDS
In his words when giving the keynote address Boko explained that any labour movement has the right to associate with any political organization that it feels could take care of workers better if given a chance to lead. “As trade unions you go shopping, that is to say you move from one political organization and analyze their labour policies and trade unionism ideologies, you do so because Botswana is a political state, after doing so you then have the right to associate, offer solidarity or align nor support any political organization that you perceive can take care of workers well being better, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that,” lectured Boko.
Boko told workers that uniting was no longer a matter of choice for them as trade unions: “You must first know your right, then understand yourselves as a trade union then work towards forging a common solidarity ground to demand your rights.” He underscored that government needed to respect the workers and their rights as it was the only way the workforce could be productive. “Every decision at the bargaining council must be taken in good faith.”
The 2019 presidential hopeful indicated that government must lay down facts about the economic stance of the country and disclose accurate figures for workers to appreciate the reality with our national treasury. “It is however imperative that when government say there was no money for salary increment, workers must not now wake up to the news that the same government is spending ridiculously on questionable and useless expenditures,” he said. Speaking to Weekendpost afterwards, Boko revealed that he will be taking deliberate actions to reconcile BOPEU and BOFEPUSU.
“It is a fact we cannot ignore that the two labour movements need each other to advance the interests of the workers,” he said. According to Boko, this year’s theme of Unity and solidarity should register as a challenge and urge the leadership and members of the two organizations to appreciate that it is only when they are one that they can reclaim trade unionism space in the social dialogue space.
“Because of our (UDC) good relationship with BOFEPUSU and my cordial relations with BOPEU as demonstrated by their invite of my person here, I will be taking deliberate actions to try and forge unity between the two labour movements,” revealed Boko. Boko who was invited in his capacity as the Leader of Opposition is of the view that for government to listen and respect workers’ rights, it is important for workers through their trade unions to speak and bargain in one voice.
UNIONS ROLE IN REGIME CHANGE AGENDA
Speaking to the issue of the 2019 regime change agenda, the UDC leader told Weekendpost that BOFEPUSU will play an integral role in their 2019 takeover efforts. “Our friendship with BOFEPUSU was established years back when BCP was not yet part of us. Now that means BOFEPUSU and BCP leaderships must come together and appreciate a common understanding of our course,” he said. Boko noted that he will arrange a meeting between the leaders of the two organizations to allow them to dialogue and iron out any issues that might be evident.
“In no time I will facilitate a meeting between the leadership of our new partners into the UDC, Botswana Congress Party and the leadership of BOFEPUSU so as they engage and understand each other better going forward into 2019 takeover,” said the UDC President.
He further stressed that after the BCP and BOFEPUSU have ironed out their issues and he has succeeded in bringing BOPEU and BOFEPUSU together the two trade unions under one understanding can choose to support the UDC or not to support.
“Remember I said every trade union has a right to choose any political alignment as they see fit. My primary intention would be to unite BOPEU and BOFEPUSU in the best interest of the workers then after they have united and forged common solidarity if they want to collectively throw in their support to our course as the UDC we will welcome them. We want to take over in 2019 and any support that seeks to assist us achieve that is highly welcome,” he said.
DINGAKE DID NOTHING WRONG
Boko also shared his sentiments on BCP presidential spokesperson, Martin Dingake representing BOPEU: “Well, the reality is as a private lawyer you have a right to represent any client of your choice without political judgment. I personally see nothing wrong with that, but for the sake of our cooperation that is why I have to organize a meeting with BOFEPUSU and BCP leadership to clear this misconceptions. Dingake did nothing wrong contrary to some of our comrades and party leaders, they are entitled to their opinion but the reality is that a private attorney represents whoever they see fit as long as they are observing their practicing regulations,” explained Boko.
BCP spokesperson Dithapelo Keorapetse had also buttressed that BOPEU and BOFEPUSU must smoke peace pipe. “This unions used to pressure us into uniting as opposition parties, we realized the bigger picture and united as opposition parties in Botswana, they must now lead by example and do the same,” said Keorapetse who is also Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West. Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) president, Bohithetswe Lentswe said unions must unite ‘to reclaim their position in the trade unionism space and advocate for collective bargaining and general review of public service bargaining council constitution’.
The leader of BFTU, which is a close ally of BOPEU, underscored the need for united trade unions into advancing workers’ interests adding that the rivalry between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU will only paralyze the collective bargaining efforts. He further expressed disappointment at BOFEPUSU’s decision to withdraw from the Public Service Bargaining Council. He said the decision was reactionary and won’t help the workers course.
However BOPEU President Masego Mogwera indicated that BOPEU is unshaken on advancing workers’ rights. In presidential message read during the May Day commemoration in her absentia, Mogwera stated categorically that BOPEU will not associate with any political organization or whoever is aligned to any partisan political party at the expense of workers’ rights
In an era where the advocacy for the rights and inclusion of marginal groups, especially individuals beset with profound and multiple impairments, grows more fervent, the Ministry of Education and Skills Development is actively devising schemes to integrate these individuals comprehensively.
Embarking on a pioneering venture, heralded by the Minister Douglas Letsholathebe, the establishment of a novel facility designated for individuals faced with disabilities is on the horizon, set to inaugurate in Maun by mid-2024.
This forthcoming entity, bestowed with the title “Maun Center for Learners with Severe and Multiple Disabilities,” is set to emerge as a sanctuary for those grappling with intense and diverse disabilities in the expanse of the Ngamiland District. Its mission extends beyond serving as a haven; it aims to elevate educational standards and secure outstanding scholastic achievements for this special cohort.
With palpable optimism, Dr. Letsholathebe heralds that this sanctuary, a collective effort of the ministry’s allies, is constructed and awaits its ceremonial launch in the June of 2024, marking a significant epoch in the winter season.
“Construction of the Maun Center for Learners with Severe and Multiple Disabilities has concluded, now in the stewardship of my Ministry. We are poised for its operational unveiling come June 2024,” Dr. Letsholathebe revealed, signaling a new chapter of assurance.
The Government of the Republic of Botswana is steadfast in elevating the status of individuals with disabilities, fostering an environment where their rights are fervently protected and upheld.
Echoing this commitment, the recent adoption of the Persons Living with Disabilities Act marks a historic stride. Its foremost objective is the establishment of the National Disability Coordinating Office alongside the National Disability Council, aligning with the mandates of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This movement is expected to significantly influence the integration of disability-centric issues.
Moreover, this legislative framework is set to fortify ongoing initiatives, increasing the economic participation of disabled individuals, thereby enhancing their living conditions and steering them towards securing a life marked by dignity and fulfillment.
In light of historical evidence, individuals bearing disabilities have consistently encountered significant obstacles in securing employment, often finding themselves at the margins of the workforce. Constraints to equitable employment opportunities compared to their non-disabled counterparts were a common plight.
A substantial portion of employers harbor reservations about integrating people with disabilities into their workplaces, fearing potential complications. Only a select few are open to the idea of employing individuals with disabilities. Consequently, these individuals face heightened unemployment rates and a lack of social support, exacerbating their vulnerability to economic hardship. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), along with the nation of Botswana, champions the cause of workplace inclusion for people with disabilities.
Statistics from Botswana’s multi-topic survey for the fourth quarter of 2021 underscore the situation. The labor force comprising individuals with disabilities saw an uptick to 11,553 from 8,649 in just a year. Among these, 4,313 were males and 7,240 were females. The unemployed tally stood at 2,195, against 9,358 who were employed. A notable majority resided in Urban Villages, with the remainder spread across rural locales and cities.
During this quarter, individuals with disabilities accounted for approximately 1.3 percent (9,358 persons) of the overall 717,418 employed populace, marking a significant increase from the previous year. The distribution of employed persons with disabilities across various areas also saw changes, with urban regions employing a majority, followed by rural areas and cities.
The report further delves into the occupational landscape for people with disabilities, noting a predominant employment in service/sales roles over elementary positions – a contrast to the broader employment data.
Despite a reduction in unemployment figures for individuals with disabilities from the preceding year, the unemployment rate stands at a worrying 19.0 percent, with disparities between genders. Urban areas house the majority of the unemployed, with rural areas and cities following suit.
Unemployment across different age groups reveals a balanced distribution, highlighting a widespread issue across the demographic spectrum. This paints a vivid picture of the ongoing challenges and gradual progress within the sphere of employment for people with disabilities.
Majority of employers are still hesitant to employ people with disabilities because they believe they may bring problems in the workplace. Only a few employers are willing to hire workers with disabilities. This as a result makes people living with disability to be affected by high unemployment and insufficient social protection which then further increases their risk of poverty. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is advocating for the inclusion of people with disability in the world of work and Botswana as a country too is advocating for their inclusion in the workplaces.
According to statistics Botswana, multi-topic survey quarter 4, 2021 labour force module report, the total labour force for people with disability was estimated at 11,553 persons, an increase of 2,904 persons over a period of twelve months (from 8,649 persons recorded in Q4 2020). From this total, 4,313 persons were males while 7,240 were females. In addition, 2,195 persons were unemployed whereas 9,358 persons were employed. Furthermore, the data showed the majority of labour force with disability were in Urban Villages (6,185), 3,708 were in rural areas and 1,661 in Cities & Towns.
The essence of community and local flair reigns supreme as St Louis Lager takes a bold step with its ambitious “Hype the Homegrown” Initiative, designed to bolster the visibility and support for local artists and home-based brands, weaving them into the fabric of mainstream success through revolutionary partnerships.
The launchpad for this endeavor has been set with a plethora of creative projects. Among them, a musical odyssey titled “The Journey,” featuring the fusion of local House and Pop virtuoso Hanceford Magapatona, widely celebrated as Han C. Enriching the project further are talents like the visionary Producer Flex the Ninja and the RnB Phenom, Priscilla K, whose track “Away” has captured hearts. This six-track EP, ripe with local genius, is up for grabs across all streaming services, inviting listeners to a world of Botswana’s finest.
But “Hype the Homegrown” transcends the bounds of musical exploration, delving into the realms of fashion and lifestyle, stitching a dynamic collaboration with Collections by B.K. Proctor. This venture, rooted in 100% local ownership by the trailblazing Rapper and Entrepreneur Bokang βBKβ Proctor alongside Digital Maverick, Fifi Wale, showcases a vibrant melding of St Louis Lager and Collections by BK Proctor insignias across a series of street-savvy sneakers and tees. These exclusive pieces have hit the shelves at the Collections by BK Proctor boutiques within the bustling hubs of Gaborone Fairgrounds Mall, Grand Palm, and Toro Junction Mall in Francistown.
Unveiled by the marketing maestro of Kgalagadi Breweries Limited, Gaamanngwe Ramokgothwane, this initiative not only shines a spotlight on KBL’s enduring commitment to the arts but also underscores the wealth of creativity brewing within Botswana, deserving of grand stages and accolades. Ramokgothwane passionately advocates for a collective embrace of this homegrown brilliance, positioning “Hype the Homegrown” as not merely a campaign but a clarion call to action for institutions far and wide to champion and elevate local talent.
Echoing this sentiment, KBL’s steward Carlos Bernitt envisions a future where these artisans not only sparkle locally but also etch their mark on the global canvas, all through the unified backing of Batswana. With “Hype the Homegrown,” a legacy of innovation, creativity, and inspiration is in the making.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Seipati Olweny, acknowledged this campaign as a turning point for the creative community. She stressed the indispensable role of local talent in crafting Botswana’s cultural tapestry and stimulating economic diversification, pledging unwavering support from the ministry towards this collective journey of uplifting local flair.