Bots labour unions mull political party

Gaborone – Botswana’s public service umbrella labour union, the Botswana Federation of Public Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU), has revealed plans to form a political party ahead of the 2014 general elections.

In an interview with The Southern Times, the labour union’s secretary, Johnson Motshwarakgole, reiterated that the union is not affiliated to any political body in the country. However, he said, the union has the right to encourage its members to subscribe to ideologies of a party that has the interest of the union at heart.
Should they not form a political party, Motshwarakgole said, they will dictate to their more than 90 000 members which party or political coalition to support during the 2014 national elections.
“If there is no party that can serve our interest, we (BOFEPUSU) will have to form our own party,” said Motshwarakgole.
“Given the deteriorating socio-economic conditions under the current government, the union would not remain neutral to give members a free hand in voting for their preferred candidates or parties.
“We are going to lobby our members to support and work with any coalition or party that has the best interests of the workers.
“We will urge our members and rally them behind such coalition or parties,” he said.
Meanwhile, Motshwarakgole warned opposition parties in Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) to do some self-introspection and consider merging as the elections approach.
“We want to make a choice between a united opposition and the BDP,” he said
In a statement issued on May Day celebrations, BOFEPUSU spokesperson, Goretetse Kekgonegile, called for an inclusive decision-making process that will also serve the interests of the working class.
“That transformation cannot happen with workers outside the political system for nothing can be decided about workers without workers.
“Hence, the need to participate fully in the national politics to influence pro-labour political decisions in all forums, “said Kekgonegile.
He said this calls for deliberate political education based on the working class ideology to enhance political decisions into 2014 national elections and beyond.
Kekgonegile said the union would also consider setting aside a portion of “our income for the design and delivery of our political education across the federation.
“For the 2014 elections, we have to establish election teams, mobilise workers to both register and vote.”
The move to form a political party or to participate in national politics comes on the heels of government’s concern that union leaders were engaging in active politics.
Some of the leaders are civil servants who have been seconded to the BOFEPUSU secretariat.
Reports indicate that the government has called trade union leaders for a meeting where they will be cautioned to stay out of politics.
The Director of Public Service Management, Carter Morupisi, is quoted as saying that if trade union leaders want to join politics they are free to form a political party, but they first have to leave the public service.
The meeting is believed to be a step closer to the sacking of public sector union leaders who are spearheading the campaign to lobby support for the opposition in the upcoming elections.
Muzzling the union leaders by government is a second phase of a multi-pronged approach to neutralise the labour movement ahead of the elections.
The first phase involved de-registration of trade unions found to be in breach of the Societies Act.
The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs has already launched a massive investigation of trade unions to establish if they are compliant.
Morupisi, who insists that the Public Service Act bars public officers from political activism, has confirmed that he has summoned leaders of public sector unions to explain their involvement in politics.


May 2013
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