Former General Secretary of Congress of South African Trade Unions, and Vice-Chairperson of the Millennium Labour Council; Zwelinzima Vavi
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane and veteran South African unionist Zwelinzima Vavi disagree on the role that unions should play in the politics of their countries.
Both men were invited to speak at the recent BOPEU Congress in Palapye. Vavi was the guest speaker while Ntuane was representing the ruling party.
Ntuane told delegates that BDP subscribes to the notion that unions as vital components of civil society must be strong, accountable, and vibrant and remain independent from party politics.
“Our position is borne from the observation that in this country no single union can lay claim to membership that is homogenous in the support of any single political party,” he contended.
“Much like our own families, union membership comprises individuals of different political convictions co-existing side by side, who ought to be united by a common desire to represent and protect the interests of the worker.”
Ntuane’s remarks come in the wake of 2014 general elections in which Botswana Federation Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU)’s decision to support and endorse opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
The BDP Secretary General said the unions that affiliate to political parties are vulnerable to suffering the unintended consequence of splits and divisions over party politics.
“In other instances unions that are active in the trenches of party politics end up little more than a labour desk; and in the process the plight of the worker plays second fiddle to the incubator political party,” he said.
“BDP thinks it’s more prudent for unions to embrace non-partisanship and allow members to exercise individual political choice. After all there is no natural law that says unions must compromise their independence for party political adventurism.”
But Vavi said decent working conditions do not fall from the sky like manna. Likewise he said progressive and pro working class and or pro poor policies do not just happen on their own, but through change.
Vavi said BOPEU can be champions of change in Botswana working together with other progressive forces.
Vavi said workers must not divorce themselves from the politics of the country because it will not only be reactionary but counterproductive.
“Our very DNA as workers is politics. Every demand and every campaign we take up is political and ideologically inspired,” he said. “No one can divorce workers from both local, national and global politics −there is no room for neutrality in particular in a class divided societies Botswana included.”
Vavi warned unions to avoid signing blank cheques to the liberation movements guaranteeing that they will mobilise workers to vote them into power without insisting on reciprocal actions to benefit workers.
Veteran unionist, cautioned BOPEU against possible domestication by the employers which will render the union ineffective in delivering its mandate.
“Union movements have been ‘domesticated’ and once militant and robust unions are now used as platforms to advance the careers of former trade unionists in government.”
Vavi, who was expelled from COSATU earlier this year, told delegates to learn from South Africa and avoid the dangers of being domesticated.
He outspoken Vavi remarked that COSATU once a militant and powerful union was able to resist oppression aimed at the working class. He said the situation has tragically changed for the worse over just three years.
“After years of paralysis as a result of internal battles COSATU has now virtually imploded and now remains impotent; it has become little more than a labour desk for the ruling party, the African
“This has been a real tragedy for many of us, who spent years building the federation.”
The former COSATU General Secretary revealed that the decision to derail the federation [COSATU], and turn it into a conveyorbelt for Government, was not an accident, but a deliberate act, a conscious strategy to ensure that COSATU did not challenge Government’s slide into full-scale neo-liberalism.
“I do not apologise for saying this, but the current COSATU leadership has been pawns in a much bigger conspiracy, though as willing accomplices they are no less guilty,” he charged.
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.