Andrew Motsamai explains why they bargain at Office of the President
The Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) President, Andrew Motsamai has defended his union’s decision to engage the Office of the President in resolving some issues affecting the union’s members, amid criticism that the union is selling out.
After the fallout with the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU) post 2014 general elections, BOPEU has been operating outside the remits of the Federation.
The tiff with the Federation developed after the latter endorsed the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) towards the elections.
Motsamai summoned the media this week to explain a few standpoints amid perceptions that the union is now pro-government, with some labelling its leaders as sell-outs.
“Those who question our engagement with the Office of the President do not understand the role of a trade union,” said Motsamai. “It is our role to develop a working relationship with those in power, to engage them on issues affecting our members. Some issues are not for bargaining but for consultation and policy.”
BOPEU is the biggest public sector union in terms of resources and membership statistics. As an investment it could be valued at over a billion Pula.
The BOPEU leader said policy is the prerogative of those in power and the unions’ role is to contest it. “Take for instance the NDP 11 which is about to be formulated. We have to get into the policy forums and engage BOCCIM and government bureaucrats to shape it in our favour,” he said. “NDP 11 cannot be brought to the bargaining council.”
Last year November, BOPEU invited President Ian Khama to officiate at their convention. Khama hailed BOPEU as a responsible union, further inviting the leadership to his office “anytime” to discuss issues affecting employees and union members.
Motsamai indicated that those opposed to BOPEU’s modus operandi were applying double standards because when teachers engage the Ministry of Education and Skills Development on Levels of Operation or supervision of sporting activities outside the bargaining council, it is viewed as legitimate interaction.
“But when BOPEU interacts with OP it is selling out. BOPEU has to engage OP because its membership cuts across the entire government spectrum,” he said.
Motsamai said their first point of call is the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM), which is a department under the Office of the President.
“Head of the public service is the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP). When we engage the OP we are administratively engaging the PSP,” he stated.
“A smart trade union cannot avoid an opportunity to engage with the Office of the President of the country and fortunately our members are able to separate the office from the person or the party.”
Motsamai told the media that despite the current uproar on BOPEU’s liaison with OP, they have previously done this, several times.
A former secretary general of BOFEPUSU, Motsamai noted that ever since the 2011 public servants strike, there has been little engagement with the Office of the President.
“It’s not a new development; we have been doing this for years. Many of public servants gains achieved in improved conditions were as a result of such interaction,” he contended.
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.