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BOFEPUSU’s hit list in doubt

Publishing Date : 07 October, 2019

Author : KETUMILE RAMATITI

Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions’ (BOFEPUSU), grand plan to compile a hit list and a political party to endorse for this year’s highly contested elections is faced with boardroom clashes; this comes in the backdrop of divisions within the committee over candidates and a party to support.


The federation leadership had agreed in July, that they will consult the membership and ultimately meet to decide on the two issues. The idea was to mobilise the union affiliates to not vote for certain politicians who were to be identified and labelled ‘anti-workers’. Secondly, the federation which boasts of over 100,000 members, was to look at various party manifestos and see which one is friendly to the workers and ultimately recommending it to their voting bloc.


However, WeekendPost can safely reveal that the union will not release the hit-list for politicians as per the plan for one simple reason; “clock has already ticked and it will be difficult to convince workers at this time, as already they have made up their minds,” explains one leader. This argument as brought by some within the union, has compelled BOFEPUSU top brass to reverse and or suspend the idea to avoid backlash mostly from within.


“The leadership is divided on who to back so it has been decided that the best way would be just to let their members make their own decisions,” disclosed another high ranking member of the union. He continued to say; “The hit-list will also not be compiled because some wanted it to be dominated by opposition candidates which was not accepted by others in the committee. In short the plan is dead, we won’t be making hit-list or backing any party.”


In the past elections BOFEPUSU made it clear that their dreaded axe was specially designed for the ruling party and wanted most of its candidates to lose the elections. The consequences of the hit list were devastating for the ruling party as eight out of 13 targeted members lost elections starting with the primaries. Dumelang Saleshando was the only opposition member who was targeted, and as fate would have it he also lost to Dr Phenyo Butale.


The relationship between BOFEPUSU and opposition, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to be precise, dates back eight years ago, when the party was formed at the height of a 10 week-long public servants strike in, April 2011. BOFEPUSU then agreed to work with the party as a revolutionary force against the BDP regime, with the aim to help UDC win power.  In turn, the UDC promised to respect worker’s rights at all times.


Meanwhile, it has been evident that the plan to have a hit list and a party to support was going to fail. Other union leaders have been snubbing the meeting in which decisions were to be taken on the two subjects. “The process for the meeting is on, we are waiting for other colleagues to confirm the suggested date,” Union President Johannes Tshukudu said in August.


Not only is the hit-list a matter within a topic within BOFEPUSU boardroom, but it is also facing a dilemma of which political party to endorse on the 23rd. The Godfather of Botswana’s trade unions, Johnson Motshwarakgole has set a tone, endorsing the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and its leader Mokgweetsi Masisi. This, informants say has also caused confusion as Masisi’s leadership has given labour movements a glimpse of hope that things might change for the better under his administration. This is after government made a salary increment for public servants and engaged union leaders on a number of matters including the implementation of PEMANDU report.


In an interview this week BOFEPUSU President Tshukudu, said they are still much on the issue. “This issue is very interesting and sensitive. There is no how way we can fail to deliberate on these issues as we meet our constitutional structures this weekend.” He also added that time was still on their side: “We have three weeks towards election time. Workers would go to the pools very fresh about the advice. You are aware that change of mind on decision making can be done even a couple of minutes before getting into the poll both. So I still maintain that it is not late. The difference is that in the past it was done early due to circumstance prevailing then.”


The government’s failure to resuscitate the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC), as well as a court case in which the Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), was seeking to de-recognise trade unions, are among the factors that show that there is need for government to do more in order to win the hearts of the workers. Failure to implement the PEMANDU report recommendations is another area that has not helped the relations between BDP and the workers.


PEMANDU has recommended 20 percent increment for public servants on grade A and B; 10 percent for grade C and D; and 15 percent for grade E and F. It further states that in the absence of increments to civil servants on higher notches, of grades E and F, “we recommend the following: 15 percent for grades A and B; 10 percent for grades C and D.”


At their congress last year BOFEPUSU members mandated the leadership to review its relationship with the UDC and produce a report. Trade unionists met at a retreat in Mmathubudikwane late last year but could not complete the report. The report was expected to be completed sometime in March, but it is not yet out.


BOFEPUSU is an umbrella union for five civil service unions, including; Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers union (BLLHWU), Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Teacher’s Union (BTU), National Amalgamated Local, Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU).

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