The national strike by the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) has great potential of widening the rivalry between the public service unions, especially the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and the National Amalgamated Local, Central government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALGPWU).
When employees of the BURS who are members of BOPEU went on strike this week in protest of low salary increment by the employer, those of the NALGPWU did not join them as they are awaiting the negotiated salary restructuring to take place.
BURS took BOPEU to court on Thursday morning in an effort to stop the strike. Before the Industrial court, BURS pleaded for a thirty day period before the employees could put a notice to go on strike. According to them it is a legal requirement that the Union wait for thirty days after the Director of Labour declared that the two parties had failed to reach a settlement.
However BOPEU contended that it did not make sense for it to wait that long when its members were suffering and it was clear that the employer had no intention to change its stand. BOPEU told the court that their members have not been receiving the 6% salary increment offered by the employer for the last three Months as they wanted more. The court was told that the BOPEU members who work for BURS were more than ready to go on strike so as to demonstrate their rights and force the employer to reach a settlement with the union.
By Thursday evening, the Industrial court had issued a ruling in favour of the Union and some BOPEU members who were on duty immediately abandoned their work stations and took to the streets.
On Friday morning BURS declared that some of its services including at the borders and airports would be disrupted or slower than usual.
“The BURS Management apologises to its customers for the inconveniences that the industrial action may cause and assures the public that it is doing all it can to expeditiously restore normal services,” the BURS Management announced on Friday morning.
The move by BOPEU is viewed as a timely scheme for them to claim credit for the results of the salary restructuring which is ongoing within BURS-the restructuring is expected to lead to better salary scales. The restructuring is a result of negotiation between BURS and NALCPWU.
NALCPWU’s Secretary for Labour, Johnson Motshwarakgole confirmed that BOPEU never asked for their support when they went on strike. He could not disclose whether members of his union would have gone on strike or not as he said they had not discussed the issue with them.
“We do not have to look at this issue narrowly. We (NALCPWU) and BURS have appointed a task force which is working on the restructuring of the employees’ salaries. I have been told that the report of the task force has been completed and that as we speak, BURS is working on profiling the employees. The final report is expected this month of July,” explained Motshwarakgole.
The restructuring, according to Motshwarakgole is expected to cause BURS to increase its employees’ salaries by twenty percent. Motshwarakgole maintains that his union, together with BURS have agreed on the structure which would culminate into better packages for employees and they have since agreed with BURS to “cushion” their members with a six percent salary increment while they waited for the exercise to be completed.
“We have negotiated better salary increment for our members. All our recent negotiations led to twenty percent salary increment. Take for example BTA, HRDC and UB, they all got a twenty percent salary raise owing to our negotiations,” Motshwarakgole said before adding that, “You should also remember that we negotiated for BURS employees to get bonus payments at the end of every year. The agreement is that a small percentage from the annual collection should benefit the employees because they collect Millions of Pula every year for the employer,” Motshwarakgole added.
Nonetheless, he said the NALCPWU was in solidarity with BOPEU and supported their course of action. However he stressed that, they have not encouraged their members to join the strike because if they do it would be betrayal to their agreement with BURS over the restructuring exercise.
“We cannot stop anyone from going on strike. It is an individual choice more so that it is a no work no pay kind of action,” Motshwakgole added.
Meanwhile BOPEU reports that since the beginning of the strike Thursday evening and the announcement of the intention to strike, they are receiving new members into their union.
As the unions take a position of “one man on his own” fears are rife that the two parties who are members of the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) may never smoke the peace pipe.
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.