One of the most axiomatic trade union slogans is the one that says ‘an injury to one is an injury to all.’ In my view, this slogan epitomizes the essence of trade unionism, which is that even if harm is caused to only one employee, for instance, even those who have not suffered such harm should stand in unity and solidarity with the harmed employee in pursuit of his or her emancipation.
In my view, this slogan does not only apply to individual employees. It also applies to trade unions and trade union federations. An injury to one trade union should be an injury to all trade unions and an injury to one trade union federation should be an injury to all trade union federations. That is the hallmark of trade unionism.
Yet, since Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU)’s disaffiliation from Botswana Federation of Public Private Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPPPUSU) this timeless slogan has been contemptuously trampled on. This, to the delight of government for it knows that the divisions between BOFEPPPUSU and BOPEU are to its benefit.
Unfortunately, true to the adage that ‘when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers’ it is the workers who are bearing the brunt of this senseless fight. At the end of it all neither BOFEPPPUSU nor BOPEU will emerge as victors. It is government that will be triumphant. I never thought I will live to the day when any of our trade unions or trade union federations will go to court seeking for orders that will effectively make another trade union or trade union federation unable to bargain for its members. Yet this happened!
Recently, BOPEU went to the High Court praying, inter alia, that BOFEPPPUSU be declared to have violated Article 8.1 of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) constitution and that it be immediately ordered to pay its outstanding financial contributions of P1, 065. 30, and that its PSBC membership be suspended.
BOPEU also prayed that the Chairperson of the PSBC be interdicted from convening or causing the convening of the PSBC meetings pending compliance with the reliefs it sought. How can there be a case where one trade union or trade union federation is the Applicant and the other trade unions and trade union federation, together with government are Respondents?
In this case the Respondents were The Attorney General, Trainers and Allied Workers’ Union (TAWU), Botswana Government Workers’ Union (BOGOWU), Botswana Nurses Union (BONU), the PSBC Chairperson, Botswana Land Boards and Local Authorities Workers’ Union (BLLAWU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and BOFEPPPUSU.
I am neither going to discuss the merits of the case nor will I discuss whether or not, on the merits, BOPEU had an arguable case. That is immaterial. My point is that the trade unions and trade union federations should never have gone to court against each other in the first place. That is taboo. Ke moila! Who stands to benefit from BOFEPPPUSU’s suspension from the PSBC? Is it not government which stands to benefit because the voice of the Union party during the negotiations would be weakened to the detriment of employees?
Who stands to benefit from the PSBC Chairperson’s interdiction from convening meetings? Is it not the employees and their families and beneficiaries who would suffer since their salary increments would be delayed, further weakening their already eroded purchasing power? How do trade unions and trade union federations, through needless litigation, further delay salary increments for employees who have not had a salary increment for about two financial years now?
Are these trade unions and trade union federations not sympathetic to their members who have endured price increases and a rise in inflation for so long with no mitigation of a salary increase? Are these battles really about the workers or they are about trade union politics? BOFEPPPUSU’s Deputy Secretary General, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, was quoted in Mmegi’s online edition of 20th April 2017 as saying “…without proper ideological understanding, leaders would simply take their way even when it means misleading their members…” Is this not what is happening with the BOPEU and BOFEPPPUSU showdown?
In another case, BOPEU is on one side while BOFEPPPUSU and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) are on another. How does a trade union and a trade union federation go to court with the other seeking its members to continue benefitting from a salary increment while the other, supported by government, seeks a reversal of such increment?
This is unprecedented and I doubt whether it has ever happened in the history of trade unionism. My heart bleeds when I read such newspaper headlines as ‘BOFEPUSU floors BOPEU, again’, ‘The day BOFEPUSU, BOPEU met in Court’, ‘BOPEU, BOFEPUSU battle in court’, e.t.c. While these headlines sell the newspapers concerned, they are a sign that our trade union movement is ailing.
Hitherto, I wrote an article in which I argued that the only way to end the feud between BOPEU and BOFEPPPUSU is by mediation and not by litigation. I reiterate this argument and once again call upon Faith Based Organizations, Civil Society, the media, the Opposition and Attorneys for BOPEU and BOFEPPPUSU to mediate between BOPEU and BOFEPPPUSU.
I have also hitherto written in this column that there is a possibility that the BOPEU and BOFEPPPUSU feud is not based on principle and the best interest of the workers, but is motivated by personal interests and personal vendetta between the leaders of the two organisations.
BOPEU’s Secretary General, Topias Marenga, is seemingly in agreement with this conclusion, as he is quoted in Mmegi’s online edition of 20th April 2017 as saying “… egos and pride will never take them anywhere…” According to Mmegi, Marenga was worried about what he termed an emergence of a ‘third force/ third hand’, which he blamed for stirring workers to remain polarised by politics.
The longer the acrimony between BOPEU and BOFEPPPUSU continues the more public sector employees and trade unions and trade union federations stand to lose the gains they have made, especially since the enactment of the Public Service Act, 2008. I would not be surprised if government takes advantage of this fight and enacts legislation and policies that have the effect of negating the labour liberalization gains ushered in by the Public Service Act, 2008.
Also, it is incontrovertible that this acrimony and the manifold court cases have distracted BOPEU and BOFEPPPUSU from their main mandates of fighting for the rights and welfare of their members. Not only that. The millions of Pula that have been spent in Advocates and Attorneys’ fees could have been used for the enhancement advocacy and lobbying campaigns, enhancement of member benefit schemes and programmes and the development and delivery capacity building and training programmes.
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.
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.
POSITIVITY 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)
COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT
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.
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.