Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) has condemned the Botswana government for failing to speak up against the government of Zimbabwe’s oppression of workers but instead fought alongside her counterpart at the recent International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva.
The Zimbabwe and Swaziland governments were brought before the ILC committee of Application of Standards for failure to domesticate some ILO conventions and Botswana intervened on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).Addressing the media this week, BFTU President, Bohithetswe Lentswe said they were disappointed by Botswana’s response. He said Zimbabwe failed to domesticate the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention while Swaziland continues to violate Convention 87, which talks about Freedom of Association and Protection of the right to Organise. He said Botswana also speaking on behalf of SADC countries as the chair of the region defended Swaziland and expressed confidence that the country would resolve the matter and be put to finality.
“It is not a secret anymore of what is happening to the workers in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe was not appearing for the first time before this committee for breaching the ILO Convention. The severity of these breaches, notably the serial physical and psychological attacks on workers and their trade union leaders are worrisome. Now Botswana instead of condemning this, requested that Zimbabwe be given another chance to sort herself. Botswana further said since Zimbabwe is going through constitutional reforms she is confident that things will be restored to normal”, he said.
Lentswe said as Zimbabwe’s neighbor, Botswana government knows very well the implications felt by the country and its citizens due to the way the Zimbabwean government is treating its workers. The president said workers in Zimbabwe are abused which forces some of them to flee to Botswana. He explained that the conference has however agreed that a commission of inquiry of experts should be sent to Zimbabwe and Swaziland to investigate. The commission is expected to report back in September this year. He said BFTU as a member of World Workers Actors, strongly believes in social dialogue and they condemn with outright the decision of Botswana Government to condone the bad behaviour exhibited by Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
United States Government has pledged to continue to raise the issue of a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act with the Government of Botswana.
U.S Embassy Charged D’ Affairs, Timothy Smith said this week that it remains their hope that Botswana will soon adopt a FOI Bill that ensures greater openness, transparency and access to information for the people of Botswana. He stated that government will continue with this issue because in 2015, Freedom House rated Botswana only ‘partly free’ when it assessed freedom of the press.
Botswana Government has for years now promised to bring to Parliament FOI Bill through the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. Smith who was speaking during the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day in Gaborone this week said his government is particularly proud of the important work their media partners in Botswana are doing every day.
“I want to recognise the INK Centre for Investigative Journalism, which was launched by two U.S. Government media exchange alumni in 2015, the Editors Forum, composed of representation from public and private press and Media Institute of Southern Africa. Our support to Botswana’s media groups will continue”, he said.
Smith said in Botswana their ongoing engagement and direct partnerships reflect the two countries’ shared values and commitment to democracy’s fundamental principles, especially a robust and independent civil society and free press. The U.S official stated that the media in Botswana is doing an admirable job of keeping the nation informed and at the same time holding people accountable. Democracy, he said needs this type of strong, diverse and vibrant media to thrive.
He explained that the U.S Embassy’s support for the media encompasses a spectrum of programming and outreach. This includes professional development training, journalists’ exchange and advocacy for access to information, he said. The U.S also values freedom of the press as an essential component of democratic governance, said Smith.
Democratic societies, he said are not infallible, but they are accountable, and the exchange of ideas is the foundation for accountable governance. “In the U.S and in many places around the world, the press fosters active debate, provides investigative reporting, and serves as a forum to express different points of views. This is done particularly on behalf of those who are marginalised in society. The U.S commends journalists around the world for the role they play, and for their commitment to the free exchange of ideas”, Smith stated.
He revealed that the U.S Department of State recently launched its fifth annual ‘Free the Press’ campaign as part of its efforts to mark the importance of a free and independent media in the days leading up to World Press Freedom Day. This year, the fifth anniversary of the campaign, the Department highlights journalists and the media outlets that we have identified in previous years that were censored, attacked, threatened, imprisoned or otherwise oppressed because of their reporting whose situations have not yet improved, said Smith, adding “we will also highlight troubling trends in the persecution of journalists worldwide.”
·Claims and counterclaims are flying fast and thick of drama at Mass Media Complex, where the head honcho, Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo has allegedly been shown the door
Social media was this week abuzz with news that Deputy Permanent Secretary for Information and Broadcasting at Presidential Affairs and Public Administration ministry, Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo had been fired.
It was said that Kaboeamodimo was sacked by Permanent Secretary to President Carter Morupisi on the instructions of his boss Eric Molale. However, both men have denied the reports. “No we have not fired him. His contract is coming to an end in April,” said Morupisi when approached for comment.
For his part Molale refused to comment saying, “Go and ask the person who told you that information,” and hung up. It is alleged that Kaboeamodimo successfully fought off the attempts to terminate his contract by appealing directly to President Lt. Gen. Dr. Ian Khama. The decision was later rescinded in favour of redeploying him to another ministry, which has not been named.
But Kaboeamodimo expressed shock Wednesday this week when contacted, saying he had also heard the rumours that he had been sacked, or had resigned or that he was redeployed. “I am totally in the dark, all I know is that I am on leave in Lesotho,” he said. Many journalists and other Btv employees have been redeployed to other government departments allegedly due to fallout with Kaboeamodimo. In fact some even went to the extent of signing a petition protesting the manner in which Kaboeamodimo was running the department. They even reported the matter to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and the Ombudsman. Asked about reports that he fought hard when the news was delivered to him and was later promised to be redeployed to another ministry he replied: “Well I can’t comment on stories like that. I am not the kind to fight my employer Sir.”