The Secretary General of the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), Topias Marenga has implored members of his unions to be vigilant against untruths being peddled against the union and its relationship with government.
He pointed out that despite the anti-BOPEU campaign, his union continues to attract hundreds of members from the rival Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU), whose secretary general Tobokani Rari has made it clear that “the two are very parallel” in approach. “Our recruitment drive is paying off with multitudes of members joining our union,” he said.
According to Marenga, they as BOPEU are very careful not to mislead their members into believing that they are immune from the dictates of the Public Service Act. “We are encouraging our members to be very responsible employees. We will not be reckless and call on them to make party political statements, this is exactly part of the reasons why we divorced BOFEPUSU.”
The Secretary General is concerned that the partisan agenda has made trade unions to be enemies. He stressed that BOPEU will remain a non-partisan union whose main focus shall be the welfare of its members, and the large picture of fighting for the rights of workers in Botswana.
The BOPEU secretary general said the union leadership is touring the country to address members following a spate of court cases which were necessitated by the dysfunctional status of the Public Service Bargaining Council and their disagreements with BOFEPUSU. “We have over 36 000 members, you can imagine that they all want proper information in regard their conditions of service. Our intention is to follow them to their regions and tell them the truth. We have been to a number of places including Gaborone, Maun, Francistown, Palapye, Selibe Phikwe, Kanye, Tsabong, and many others,” he said.
Marenga said BOPEU members are happy with the way leadership is handling matters. He said they intend to continue their recruitment by harvesting the multitudes of frustrated BOFEPUSU members. Asked about the status of the PSBC following the decision by BOFEPUSU to withdraw, Marenga flatly refused to discuss BOFEPUSU matters, but rather chose a careful response: “we still have faith that the PSBC could be functional if all parties, that is the employer party and the union party respect one another.”
He further said as BOPEU they are still convinced that the constitution of the PSBC must be amended to allow all unions to bargain. He admitted that the current threshold as stipulated in the constitution leaves out a lot of trade unions from the bargaining process, “which is unfair”.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.