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BCP wants BOPEU, BOFEPUSU to smoke peace pipe

Publishing Date : 25 July, 2017


Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) partner, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has taken a position on the on the perceived rivalry between Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) and the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU).

Things heated up when BOPEU was represented in one of the court cases by the BCP Presidential spokesperson, Martin Dingake. BCP underscores that BOFEPUSU and BOPEU cordial relations are key to good industrial relations amongst Botswana‘s workforce. In an interview this week, BCP spokesperson, who is also Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse observed with concern the ensuing volatile industrial relations especially in the public service.

“We have noted particularly the rivalry between BOFEPUSU affiliated unions and BOPEU which culminated in protracted court battles about the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) and 3%/4% salary increment,” he said. According to Keorapetse, the BCP seeks to make it clear that it has resolved not to take a side of either BOFEPUSU or BOPEU. “We are of the view that it is in the best interest of the public service industrial relations that the two formations work together for purposes of collective bargaining.”

According to BCP, only the employer, being the government, stands to benefit from the stand off and the animosity that exists between BOFEPUSU and BOPEU. “Just as the BCP has heeded the call from trade unions to cooperate with other opposition parties in the interest of democracy and Batswana, we encourage not only BOFEPUSU and BOPEU to work together but we also employ the two big federations, being BOFEPUSU and BFTU to join forces for better working conditions of the workers,” said Keorapetse.

“Labour Unions and federations cooperation is just as important as opposition cooperation. It is not helping for BOFEPUSU and BOPEU to be fighting at the door of the PSBC, the duo and other recognized public sector unions should dialogue and engage the government on an inclusive and workable mechanism of participation at the PSBC,” he added. Keorapetse said the BCP believes the current PSBC Constitution has to be reviewed in the interests of civil servants and their unions and federations.

“The government has undermined the PSBC and collective bargaining efforts and has therefore abetted acerbic industrial relations. An ordinary worker in Botswana under the BDP government is worse off; hostile labour laws are passed by parliament regularly, the President and his ministers issue repressive instruments like directives, rules and regulations and policy decisions and the government refuses to sign, ratify and domesticate some ILO Conventions,” emphasized the BCP spokesperson.

“Workers in the public service haven't received any meaningful salary increment for nearly a decade, except for inadequate inflationary adjustments. Against this backdrop, the organization and or unity is the weapon of the workers against a strong government and employers. Without unity and cooperation Labour unions and federations would be weakened and consequently unable to pursue the interests of their members,” said Keorapetse.


In the ongoing court cases between BOFEPUSU, BOPEU, and Government, BCP Presidential Spokesperson, Martin Dingake, a renowned Gaborone attorney, represented BOPEU in a case against BOFEPUSU, who supported the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in the 2014 general election.

To emphasise relations between BOFEPUSU and UDC, Advocate Duma Boko, the leader of opposition represented the Federation in the stay of execution case, which was ultimately awarded in favour of BOPEU. According to UDC members, Dingake defied principle when he represented BOPEU in a case whose intention is oppress the workers, take sides with government against BOFEPUSU.

According to the Botswana National Front Youth League (BNFYL) President (on sabbatical leave), Khumoekae Richard, opposition cadres, regardless of profession have a duty bound to defend the principle of bargaining. “It can't be right that we support any case whatsoever that undermines thousands of worker's industrial democracy, which is fulfilled through bargaining,” he says.

Motsabakedi as he is popularly known across political corridors argues that It can't be correct to have top known activists, closer to top leadership in opposition, supporting a case that would see the bargaining principle collapse of which case might have far reaching political consequences in our polity.

“In that case we creating a situation where the BDP regime would be allowed to unilaterally increase workers salaries outside bargaining council, thereby killing legitimate democratic institutions. In the future such must be avoided, and pushed away from leadership position,” said Richard.

“It will be hypocrisy and self-defeating for the opposition to condemn BDP and Khama for announcing salary increments at Moiyabana kgotla meeting, but support such a fundamentally detrimental case that would see all our efforts quashed: now wearing a different musk called profession.” But the BCP spokesperson, Keorapetse told Weekendpost that Richard’s argument does not hold water.

“That is not the issue, we’ve doctors, mechanics, shops attendants, lawyers among others who are never bothered about who their clients are. Why should a private lawyer running a practice and with professional obligation be bothered about who they represent? People raising this issue are extremely hypocritical; they conveniently forget to ask about their own party members who are either employed by BOPEU or are engaged as professionals or are doing business with BOPEU. Dingake is a private lawyer running a law firm; he's bound by the legal practitioners Act and professional ethics to represent his clients,” said Keorapetse.



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