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BOFEPUSU shocked by BOPEU withdrawal


Botswana Federation of Public Union (BOFEPUSU) is still in shock over its affiliate Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU)’s decision to withdraw its subscription without advancing concrete reasons for leaving.


BOPEU has over the last two weeks discontinued engagement with BOFEPUSU on several matters including disinvesting from UNIGEM (Pty) Ltd, a company which was owned by among others the Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and National Amalgamated, Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU) which are all members of the BOFEPUSU.


However Andrew Motsamai, BOPEU President contend that the decision to disinvest from UNIGEM was purely a ‘business decision’ and has nothing to do with its relationship with its mother union.


BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari says they have received a letter from BOPEU informing them that the union leadership have reached a resolution to stop their monthly subscription to BOFEPUSU because its leadership attacked BOPEU in the media. “We are not aware of any instances where BOFEPUSU leadership attacked BOPEU through the media,” said Rari on the sidelines of former Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Margret Nasha press conference on Thursday.


Rari said BOFEPUSU is of the view that, if BOPEU was aggrieved by the conduct of BOFEPUSU leadership it would have been beneficial if they raised such grievances rather than taking a drastic decision to leave. Rari, who is also the Secretary General for BOSETU told this publication that he will not say whether BOPEU decision to leave was constitutional or not as that could only, be revealed by BOPEU leadership itself.


Reports reaching Weekend Post indicate that Motsamai has over the past few months acted under duress from members of BOPEU Executive Committee who are said to be unhappy with BOFEPUSU’s decision to publicly declare their support for the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ahead of the recent elections. Although Motsamai is perceived to be pro-UDC, some of his colleagues in committee have different political opinions.


At the beginning of 2012 following the collapse of Umbrella 1, Motsamai led a delegation which sought to revive the talks. BOFEPUSU leadership maintained that because of its role in the formation of UDC, it was compelling for the Federation to support the UDC ahead of the 2014 general elections. However, BOPEU developed a divergent view. When the decision to endorse UDC was taken by the leadership of BOFEPUSU, it is reported that BOPEU representatives walked away from the meeting in protest.  


Masego Mogwera, who is the Deputy President of BOPEU, had made it known just before of general elections that BOPEU will not support or fund any party. Mogwera who is seen as sympathetic to the ruling BDP is also the President of BOFEPUSU. Mogwera was instrumental in the ending of the 2011 industrial action in which public employees were protesting over 16% percent salary increment.


In August this year following the death of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Secretary General Gomolemo Motswaledi, BOFEPUSU convinced UDC leadership to field Motsamai as Motswaledi’s replacement in Gaborone Central constituency.  Motsamai withdrew following a stern resistance from BOPEU leadership over his candidature.


When contacted for comment BOPEU Secretary General, Topius Marenga swiftly dismissed reports that the union is on the verge of withdrawing from BOFEPUSU as an affiliate. He even noted that reports that BOPEU has stopped its monthly subscriptions are rubbish, “The formation of BOFEPUSU was led by BOPEU with a clear mandate and I can confirm that at no point has BOPEU reached any resolution to withdraw its affiliation status,” said Marenga.  


Marenga said BOPEU understands the gravity of the aftermath of the 2011 strike in which a significant number of their members lost their jobs. Marenga also denied reports that the union was divided over the endorsement of UDC ahead of the October polls noting that the union is committed to fight the cause which it started 2011. Marenga revealed that they are still bound by that resolution, what we differ with BOFEPUSU on is the approach of endorsing UDC.

“We are committed to moono but we did not want an explicit declaration that we support UDC. We want to be careful because we are public servants,” he said.


Following BOFEPUSU’s declaration that it will support UDC, Mogwera issued a press statement distancing the union from the position. Rari also issued a counter statement reminding Mogwera of the resolution taken by the union in her absence.   


BOFEPUSU vigorously campaigned for UDC and a few weeks ahead of general elections, the Federation released a list of a number of incumbent MPs not to be voted by the workers.
 

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