Despite being a splinter union, Botswana Progressive Workers Union (BPWU), a breakaway of Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLLAHWU) has revealed that it is not against unity of the workers’ unions. The union is advocating for a confederation which will bring together all the country’s trade federations to be formed, Weekend Post has been told.
Interim President of the new union, Motelebane Motelebane, told this publication, in the wake of his faction leading to the splitting of his former union that they are not against unity of the workers.
The splitting of unions in Botswana has become a hallmark of trade unionism in the country, with observers touting it as counterproductive in uniting and strengthening the working class.
Motelebane said, although the new union has not met yet to decide on whether to join the Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Trade Union (BOFEPPPUSU) and the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU), he is of the view that the two federations should find a way of working together.
The outspoken former BLLAHWU secretary general suggests two options; to disband the existing federations and form a single one or establishment of a confederation which will then house BOFEPPPUSU and BFTU.
BOFEPPPUSU (formerly BOFEPUSU) and BFTU have found it difficult to work together, creating two centres of power in the labour movement. BOFEPPPUSU, until recently, has been a federation of public sector unions while BFTU was made up of private sector unions. BOFEPPPUSU have recently moved to include unions representing private sector and parastatal employees.
“What is happening currently is a competition of who is bigger than the other,” said Motelebane.
Motelebane has also expressed that he was against the endorsement of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) by BOFEPPPUSU in the run up to the 2014 general elections. He said although the move could have had the impact in the elections, the unions were not well organised to effect the change desired.
The decision to endorse UDC by BOFEPPPUSU led to disagreement between the federation and affiliates, Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) in particular. BOPEU has since de-affiliated from BOFEPPPUSU and is now courting BFTU.
Motelebane has also expressed that the new union, will be apolitical, and will not endorse any political party.
“As long as we are not united as the workers, we cannot effect any regime change,” he opined.
Motelebane said one of the mistakes which the leadership of BOFEPPPUSU made was to endorse UDC without having a prior agreement on what the new government will do for the workers.
“BOFEPPPUSU needed a detailed agreement to serve as a contract on how UDC in the event that it is elected to power will offer to the working class,” he said.
Motelebane has rejected suggestions by his former union that he and his colleagues who left to form a new union are dissidents and are always out to destabilise the union every time they fail to win leadership positions.
The BLLAHWU secretary general, Ketlhalefile Motshwegwa, last week told this publication that Motelebane and his cohort have a history of being dissidents and delinquent to the union and that Motelebane himself has that dark history of being trouble to the union.
“He has always been like that during the days when the Union was an association called BULGSA. He always engaged in attacking and belittling union leadership as long as he was not in leadership. Every time he loses elections he then resorts to attacking leadership,” Motshegwa said of Motelebane.
Motelebane has however contended that the decision to establish a new union was motivated by several reasons among them; leadership which was unaccountable and no longer answerable to members, the union leadership being undemocratic, BLLAHWU Burial society members being treated as enemies of the union, minutes and resolutions being doctored.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.