Unions were again fidgety this week, accusing government of hatching a plan to crack down on perceived ‘errant’ trade union leaders that are hell-bent on frustrating government at every turn.Secretary General of Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU), Tobokani Rari has been singled out as the first target.
It’s said that he could find himself without a job if he does not tone down his criticism of government. Last month a meeting was held at Office of the President where a directive was issued that the employer (DPSM) reconsider secondment agreement of all trade unions in the public sector. This followed BOFEPUSU's countrywide tour to address workers about its love-hate relationship with the employer and what is happening at the bargaining council.“You see the problem with some of BOFEPUSU leaders they have forgotten that they are employed by government of the day and they have a tendency of discrediting us unnecessarily. Now we know they are working with the opposition to unseat us in 2019 because they have been promised positions if they take power. So, we cannot allow people who we employed to do this,” said one Minister this week on condition of anonymity.
The minister said if it was possible, government would terminate recognition agreement with all public trade unions. “2019 is going to be a tough election for us and for us to win the electionwithout a hassle we have to do something about these guys who are pushing opposition agenda in the name of worker’s welfare,” said the Minister. The same sentiments were shared by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Chief Whip, Liakat Kablay saying if trade union leaders continue to discredit the government they should be fired.
“These guys are de-campaigning our party and it is unfair for us. Now they are into politics yet they should advocate for the welfare of their members.
They forget that even our BDP members are in these unions yet they decampaign us,” said Kablay adding that they have in the past had a fruitful meeting with union leaders. “As government, we are concerned about the welfare of the workers but we have a problem with the way their leaders are doing it,” said Kablay adding that he is also a victim in this scenario because at one point they came to his constituency telling people that he should not be voted.But the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) spin doctor, Moeti Mohwasa denied ever promising trade union leaders positions if they take power in 2019. “The only thing that brings us together is that we have policies that do not sabotage workers in this country. BDP should stop the blame games because they are the ones who have policies that sabotage workers.
Workers in the country are not happy because of them,” said Mohwasa adding that BDP should stop spreading rumours that BOFEPUSU is pushing UDC’s agenda. Reached for comment DPSM boss, Ruth Maphorisa said she cannot fire anyone from the public service without reasons. “There is no directive issued to tame union leaders. They are not telling the truth,” she said adding that she only called Rari to enquire about his secondment because she has not seen anything from the union regarding it.
This week BOFEPUSU accused the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Public Administration and Governance, Eric Molale of failing to provide leadership and direction in the civil service. “We have gathered strong information that government is hatching a plan to dismiss from work the Secretary General of BOFEPUSU Cde Tobokani Rari, the same way the Deputy Secretary General was dismissed,” said a statement written by Deputy Secretary of BOFEPUSU, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa.He added, “this follows Government’s continued militant stance against Trade Unions which has resulted in violation of Trade Unions and Workers rights, persecutions of Trade Unions rights and draconian amendment of Labour Laws.” Motshegwa said, “It is clear that government is at the tail end of the dismissal of Cde Rari for government has made it clear prior to BOFEPUSU countrywide rallies that they will deal with union leaders.” This week, BOFEPUSU President, Johannes Tshukudu said they are aware that government is targeting the SG.
The president said the DPSM director has contacted Rari questioning his whereabouts since he could not be located at his workstation –Moeding College. “We know that the intention is to dismiss him because the employer has been targeting union leaders with the aim of intimidating union members. Myself I was a victim when they tried to transfer me and the deputy secretary general of the federation has been dismissed while there is an agreement in place between the employer and trade unions on organisational rights. We are still awaiting the outcome of the review of the conditions and terms of secondment of public officers and now we have people being asked about their whereabouts while there is an agreement in place”, argued Tshukudu.
“The continued confrontational attitude by government is not desirable for the peace and stability of this country,” said Motshegwa. Rari is also the Secretary General for Botswana Sectors Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), and they will be going for election this year. Last year, Tshukudu was saved by High Court after he challenged his transfer to Ministry of Transport. He is currently a lecturer at Tlokweng College of Education. The move to fire Rari is said to bar him from defending his position, as he will not be in teaching service. Tshukudu said they are aware about some union leaders who are working with the government to tame them.