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BOPEU’s departure from BOFEPUSU: the political implications?

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

At its recent congress, the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) voted to cease its affiliation with Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU). This will, no doubt, have implications for Batswana in general and public sector workers in particular. This week we consider the political implications. Next week we consider the labour implications.

One of the issues which led to BOPEU’s departure from BOFEPUSU is the latter’s decision  to support the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in the 2014 general elections, a decision which BOPEU criticized arguing that it will politicize trade unionism and bring divisions among Union members. Indeed it has bought divisions as evidenced by BOPEU’s departure from BOFEPUSU.

As I have argued earlier, politicization of trade unions is prejudicial to trade unions themselves and the workers in general. In South Africa, for example, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is in turmoil and has lost members including the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) because of its alliance with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP).

Because we are unable to know how BOPEU members voted in 2014, the impact of BOPEU’s opposition to BOFEPUSU’s support for the UDC will never be known. What is certain, however, is the fact that while some BOPEU members heeded their leaders’ decision and voted according to their own free will, others defied the leadership and voted for the UDC simply because BOPEU was still a BOFEPUSU affiliate and BOFEPUSU had so directed.  

The question is: will the fact that in 2019 BOPEU will no longer be a BOFEPUSU affiliate affect BOPEU members’ voting pattern? No doubt those BOPEU members who were opposed to withdrawal from BOFEPUSU and believe in BOFEPUSU’s support for the UDC are likely to vote for the UDC in 2019. But judging by the few votes they obtained during the congress their impact on the elections in UDC’s favour is likely to be insignificant.

On the other hand, those in support of withdrawal from BOFEPUSU and do not believe in BOFEPUSU’s support for the UDC are unlikely to vote for the UDC in 2019. Judging by the many votes they obtained during the congress their impact on the elections in UDC’s favour is unlikely to be insignificant.

But does this necessarily follow? It probably does not because it does not necessarily follow that a member who voted for withdrawal from BOFEPUSU is anti-UDC and pro Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) or Botswana Congress Party (BCP). The member could have been influenced by such factors as BOFEPUSU’s style of leadership, BOFEPUSU’s use of the federation’s resources and BOFEPUSU’s alleged ill-treatment of BOPEU.

There is no doubt that the fact that some in BOFEPUSU labelled BOPEU a sell-out citing its opposition to politicization of trade unions; its disinvestment from UNIGEM and its meetings with Office of the President (OP) contributed to BOPEU’s decision to leave BOFEPUSU. So did the alleged sidelining of BOPEU members during the last elections for BOFEPUSU’s National Executive Committee and the plot to oust the BOPEU president, Andrew Motsamai, to replace him with a pro-BOFEPUSU person.

The other reason why BOPEU’s departure from BOFEPUSU will not necessarily affect the outcome of the 2019 general elections is that there are members who are genuinely trade unionists and will vote for their traditional parties despite BOFEPUSU or BOPEU’s influence. Every political party has die-hard supporters who will vote for it regardless of any other factor.

His Honour the Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, won elections despite an onslaught by BOFEPUSU which had labelled him an enemy to the workers citing his animosity to the workers both pre and post the 2011 public sector strike. Granted, some candidates who had been so targeted, for example, the former minister of Labour & Home Affairs, Peter Siele, lost the elections, but Honourable Masisi’s victory BOFEPUSU’s wrath notwithstanding shows that many public servants defied BOFEPUSU’s instruction.
Also, who knows what will happen between now and the 2019 general elections? Circumstances and the BOPEU leadership may change and those in support of BOFEPUSU affiliation and supporting the UDC may gain support in which case their votes may affect the 2019 general elections in UDC’s favour.

Not only that. If the BDP addresses the workers’ grievances many public servants may vote for the BDP in 2019. If the BDP implements such incentives an increase in the repayment period for Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS) housing loan from 10 years to 20 years; free rent for employees in Category 1 Remote Area Service Allowance (RASA) earning areas; free internet and a special Self Help Housing Agency (SHHA) scheme for public servants of grade D4 and below; and allowing Public Servants to engage in private businesses it will get a favorable public employees’ vote than in 2014.  

Also, if the BDP’s resolution to implore government to increase public servants’ salaries and introduce a thirteenth cheque is implemented by government its electoral fortunes among public servants will improve, something which may swing the 2019 general elections in its favour.

In politics, as in life generally, perceptions matter. BOPEU’s departure from BOFEPUSU may create, in some, the perception that BOFEPUSU is disintegrating. Not only that. It may create, in some, the perception that because BOPEU’s membership is so significant, the fact that it has left BOFEPUSU, an ally of the UDC, means that the UDC’s membership and appeal has reduced significantly. If such a perception perpetuates and the BDP effectively uses it as propaganda the UDC’s prospects of victory in 2019 will be diminished.

The implications of BOPEU’s departure from BOFEPUSU will also be influenced by whether or not BOPEU remains without belonging to any federation, joins Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) or, together with some public sector Unions, forms a rival public sector federation to BOFEPUSU.

If BOPEU does not affiliate to any federation and becomes apolitical that may benefit the BDP especially if it delivers on its promises to the workers since the workers who voted for the BDP prior to 2014 are likely to ‘return home’. On the contrary, if BOPEU joins BFTU, a traditionally pro-Opposition federation, that may benefit the Opposition, especially the UDC since that may be perceived as an indirect endorsement of Opposition politics. This may be suicidal for BOPEU since its members and the general public will regard it as hypocrisy because BOPEU will have done what it left BOFEPUSU for, politicization of trade unionism.

This may in fact benefit BOFEPUSU and the UDC since it will validate BOFEPUSU’s view that no trade Union can exist without aligning itself with a political party which is pro the workers’ agenda. Almost inevitably this may also result in a split in the new federation and/or in BOPEU itself.

If BOPEU, together with other public sector Unions which may defect from BOFEPUSU, form a rival public sector federation to BOFEPUSU the political implications will depend on what political direction the federation takes. If such a public sector federation out numbers BOFEPUSU it may deny the UDC victory in 2019 because even if it remains politically neutral its members may vote for the BDP or BCP just to take the glory away from its rival, BOFEPUSU. That may be the case especially if such Unions as Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) join BOPEU in the new federation. Some members of BTU’s National Executive Committee are well known BDP supporters.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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