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BFTU, BOFEPUSU fight over national labour centre status

The composition of union delegates who represented Botswana at the International Labour Conference (ILC) held at Geneva, Switzerland last week has led to further rifts between the two rival unions.

In addition to Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU), Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) was also recently recognised as a national labour centre.

The rivalry playing out between the two union federations has however taken its toll in their participation in the tripartite arrangement.

At the ILC, BFTU was engaged as a delegate while BOFEPUSU was involved by government as a companion of BFTU as well as an advisor to government.

As per the tripartite method, the delegation to the ILC should be comprised of two government delegates, one worker delegate and one employer.

In Botswana workers have all along been represented by BFTU as the National Labour Centre while employers by Business Botswana.

BFTU, which was previously the only recognised national labour centre sitting at the ILC categorically stated this week that they are not pleased with government’s decision of including BOFEPUSU in the Geneva expedition.

BFTU Secretary General Gadzani Mhotsha spelled out his concerns to a pack of journalists on Tuesday at Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) offices.

“We later learnt that the office of the Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs has asked BOFEPUSU to submit names of their delegation directly to their office,” Mhotsha laid down his displeasure with the government.

He continued: “we further learnt that government has decided to sponsor one advisor from BOFEPUSU to accompany BFTU. It should be noted that such an advisor was never communicated to BFTU either by government or BOFEPUSU.”

He alluded to the fact that during the whole conference they never got to know or interact with the said advisor or his/her companions.

As such, the BFTU SG noted that the conduct of Botswana government was also contrary to the International Labour Organisations (ILO) procedures and that while BFTU desired to object to the composition of the Botswana delegation, it could not do so before objections could be closed due to logistical issues.

“We want to put it on record that what the government did was to encourage division of workers and thus weaken their strength,” Mhotsha pointed out.

He explained that: “BFTU is not against BOFEPUSU attending the ILC, but government should not be deciding for us who should go to the ILC as a titular delegate and who should be an advisor. It is for this reason that we wrote directly to BOFEPUSU to submit their delegates to BFTU so that we rightly receive them as our advisors.”

According to Mhotsha, their bone of contention is borne from the fact that ILO recognises only one National Labour Centre – which is thus far BFTU, and by trying to bypass that, government is in violation of the principles of ILO.

“If we don’t settle this issue by June, we will take it up with ILO,” he declared.

BFTU president Bohitlhetswe Lentswe also reiterated that currently ILO recognises BFTU as the only party representing unions to go to ILO.

“Government should go back and audit and declare whether BFTU is still the most representative to be named a labour centre,” he highlighted.

While he acknowledged that BOFEPUSU was a mere advisor at the ILC, Lentswe cautioned that “we don’t appoint advisors for government and they should not choose for us.

We failed to go there as a team because of this fracas.”

He clarified that: “we are not saying BOFEPUSU should not go there, but if BFTU remains a labour centre it should appoint their advisors.”  He however conceded that in other countries there are more than one labour centres.

MLHA long recognised BOFEPUSU

BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari has however elucidated that his union was long recognised as another labour centre since August last year.

“I don’t know why the issue confuses a lot of people. As BOFEPUSU we are now a labour centre. Therefore that means there are two labour centres in Botswana, that is BOFEPUSU and BFTU,” he explained.

“With that in mind, we have a right that we can even fight for in court – to sit in the tripartite structure,” Rari told WeekendPost in a separate interview.

According to a letter dated 18 August 2015 from Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs Pearl Ramokoka nee-Matome, which this publication has seen, the government resolved to recognise BOFEPUSU.

The MLHA PS said she is aware that BFTU has been the only organisation (federation) recognised to be representing all workers in the country.

“It is common cause that with the conclusion of court cases involving the registration of BOFEPUSU as a Federation of trade unions, it should also be recognised as a role player in our labour relations system,” the PS stated in the correspondence to BOFEPUSU.

The PS also emphasised that it is a legal requirement in terms of part XVI of the Employment Act 47:01 that when the minister considers it necessary to fix or adjust minimum wages, he shall refer the issues to the Minimum Wages Advisory Board for investigation and advice (which BFTU/BOFEPUSU should sit in).

Similarly, she said, part XVII of the same Act requires the minister to, where it is reasonably practical to do so, consult the Labour Advisory Board (which is inclusive of either BFTU/BOFEPUSU) before he introduces any Bill relating to employment into the National Assembly or before making any subsidiary legislation relating to employment.

Other consultative structures of arrangements that require the participation of workers’ and employers’ representatives (any national labour centre) include consultation on reports to the ILO, participation in the Decent Work Country Programme Steering Committee, ILC, Sectorial High Level Consultative Meetings and other engagements which require the input of workers and employers.

On another letter dated 13 May 2016 the PS reiterated that “you will recall that this ministry wrote to BOFEPUSU and BFTU on 18th August 2015 about the representation of workers in the social dialogue structures.”

In the correspondence she said they requested the two federations to work out an arrangement that would facilitate the representation of workers in meetings and activities that require workers’ participation.

“In view of the fact that this matter is still pending, we have decided that this year we will allow a delegate from BFTU to represent workers to the ILC. But this delegate shall be accompanied by an advisor from BOFEPUSU, and the expenses for the participation of the workers’ delegate and advisor shall be paid by government.”

Meanwhile, in November last year, Rari wrote to BFTU requesting for a meeting to discuss issues of workers’ representation in Social Dialogue structures.

“This comes in wake of BOFEPUSU being recognized and accorded the status of a Labour Centre in the country hence enjoying the right of representing workers in social Dialogue structures,” Rari had highlighted to BFTU then.

He maintained: “if such a meeting proceeds without us being represented, our constituents are bound to suffer owing to non – representation.” However, BFTU responded on 18th November indicating that they cannot meet BOFEPUSU on account that they had written to MLHA seeking further clarification on the matter.

BOPEU is also caught up in a court feud with BOFEPUSU regarding who should sit in the Public Service Bargaining Council – following the disaffiliation of BOPEU from the PSBC. BOPEU is currently carrying out due diligence on BFTU to weigh out options of whether to reach a final decision to affiliate.

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Transgender persons in Botswana live a miserable life

23rd November 2020
Transgender persons

An international report complied in South Africa dubbed ‘Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana’ says that the transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana live a miserable life. The community experiences higher levels of discrimination, violence and ill health.

In this report, it has been indicated that this is because their gender identity, which does not conform to narrowly define societal norms, renders them more vulnerable. Gender identity is a social determinant of health, which means that it is a factor that influences people’s health via their social context, their communities and their experiences of social exclusion. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognized this, and transgender people are considered a vulnerable population under the Botswana Second National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2010-2017.

In a recent study that shed light on the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana, transgender persons often experience discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town, LEGABIBO, BONELA, as well as Rainbow Identity Association and approved by the Health Ministry as well as the University of Botswana.

Of the 77 transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the study, less than half were employed. Two thirds, which is approximately 67% said that they did not have sufficient funds to cover their everyday needs. Two in five had hidden health concerns from their healthcare provider because they were afraid to disclose their gender identity.

More than half said that because of their gender identity, they had been treated disrespectfully at a healthcare facility (55%), almost half (46%) said they had been insulted at a healthcare facility, and one quarter (25%) had been denied healthcare because of their gender identity.

At the same time, the ‘Are we doing right’ study suggests that transgender and non-conforming people might be at higher risks of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population. More than half had experienced verbal embarrassment because of their gender identity, 48% had experienced physical violence and more than one third (38%) had experienced sexual violence.

The study showed that mental health concerns were high among transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana. Half of the transgender and gender non-conforming study participants (53%) showed signs of depression. Between one in four and one in six showed signs of moderate or severe anxiety (22% among transgender women, 24% among transgender men and 17% among gender non-conforming people).

Further, the study revealed that many had attempted suicide: one in three transgender women (32%), more than one in three transgender men (35%) and three in five gender non-conforming people (61%).

International research, as well as research from Botswana, suggests that not being able to change one’s gender marker has a negative impact on access to healthcare and mental health and wellbeing. The study further showed that one in four transgender people in Botswana (25%) had been denied access to healthcare. This is, at least in part, linked to not being able to change one’s gender marker in the identity documents, and thus not having an identity document that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression.

In its Assessment of Legal and Regulatory Framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis, the Health Ministry noted that “transgender persons in Botswana are unable to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity, which is a barrier to health services, including in the context of HIV. In one documented case, a transwoman’s identity card did not reflect her gender identity- her identity card photo indicated she was ‘male’. When she presented her identity card at a health facility, a health worker called the police who took her into custody.”

The necessity of a correct national identity document goes beyond healthcare. The High Court of Botswana explains that “the national identity document plays a pivotal role in every Motswana’s daily life, as it links him or her with any service they require from various institutions. Most activities in the country require every Motswana to produce their identity document, for identification purposes of receiving services.”

According to the Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana report, this effectively means that transgender, whose gender identity and expression is likely to be different from the sex assigned to them at birth and from what is recorded on their identity document, cannot access services without risk of denial or discrimination, or accusations of fraud.

In this context, gays and lesbians advocacy group LEGABIBO has called on government through the Department of Civil and National Registration to urgently implement the High Court rulings on gender marker changes. As stated by the High Court in the ND vs Attorney General of Botswana judgement, identity cards (Omang) play an important role in the life of every Motswana. Refusal and or delay to issue a Motswana with an Omang is denying them to live a complete and full-filing life with dignity and violates their privacy and freedom of expression.

The judgement clarified that persons can change their gender marker as per the National Registrations Act, so changing the gender marker is legally possible. There is no need for a court order. It further said the person’s gender is self-identified, there is no need to consult medical doctors.

LEGABIBO also called on government to develop regulations that specify administrative procedure to change one’s gender marker, and observing self-determination process. Further, the group looks out for government to ensure members of the transgender community are engaged in the development of regulations.

“We call on this Department of Civil and National Registration to ensure that the gender marker change under the National Registration Act is aligned to the Births and Deaths Registry Act to avoid court order.

Meanwhile, a gay man in Lobatse, Moabi Mokenke was recently viciously killed after being sexually violated in the streets of Peleng, shockingly by his neighbourhood folks. The youthful lad, likely to be 29-years old, met his fate on his way home, from the wearisome Di a Bowa taverns situated in the much populated township of Peleng Central.

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Khato Civils fights back, dares detractors

23rd November 2020
Khato-civil

CEO of Khato Civils Mongezi Mnyani has come out of the silence and is going all way guns blazing against the company’s adversaries who he said are hell-bent on tarnishing his company’s image and “hard-earned good name”

Speaking to WeekendPost from South Africa, Mnyani said it is now time for him to speak out or act against his detractors. Khato Civils has done several projects across Africa. Khato Civils, a construction company and its affiliate engineering company, South Zambezi have executed a number of world class projects in South Africa, Malawi and now recently here in Botswana.

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UDC petitioners turn to Saleshando

23rd November 2020
Dumelang Saleshando

About ten (10) Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidates who lost the 2019 general election and petitioned results this week met with UDC Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando to discuss the way forward concerning the quandary that is the legal fees put before them by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lawyers.

For a while now, UDC petitioners who are facing the wrath of quizzical sheriffs have demanded audience with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) but in vain. However after the long wait for a tete-a-tete with the UDC, the petitioners met with Saleshando accompanied by other NEC members including Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, Reverend Mpho Dibeela and Dennis Alexander.

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