Trade Unions’ détente in jeopardy

Tuesday, 18 April 2017
Trade Unions’ détente in jeopardy

BOPEU’s president Masego Mogwera admits that she and BOFEPUSU’s president, Johannes Tshukudu are “very close,” however, it appears this friendship counts for nought when it comes to healing the bitter rivalry between their Unions


The anticipated reunion between Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) and its former founding affiliate, Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) is in limbo as the two have returned to the battleground. The fight between the two dates back to 2011 during the historic public sector strike. At that time BOPEU was accused by some of BOFEPUSU affiliates of sleeping with the enemy (government) after BOPEU tried to broker a ceasefire between trade unions and government over the strike that resulted in some public servants losing their jobs. The public bickering between the two continued internally until in 2015 when BOPEU resolved during its elective congress in Palapye to disaffiliate from the federation. The court last year tried to broker a ceasefire between the duo but unfortunately, they could not agree on terms of an out of court settlement.Last week BOFEPUSU President Johannes Tshukudu revealed that the federation has written a letter to the new BOPEU President Masego Mogwera requesting the union to return to the federation. Mogwera was taking over from Andrew Motsamai who has since joined BOPEU’s investment arm, Babereki. According to Tshukudu it is their hope that under the new leadership of Mogwera the union executive will come to their senses and return home.

 “There has been change of guard. We know that it would not be an easy road and decision to make but we are optimistic that they would return. We know that the decision that was taken to leave the federation was ill-advised as it has disadvantaged the union membership. It is our hope that the new President would see things differently from her predecessor,” Tshukudu pointed out. BOFEPUSU also believes that the recent court judgement on salary increase for public servants should compel the union to rejoin the federation so that they could collectively represent the interest of public servants at Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). When she was officially unveiled as new BOPEU President, Mogwera indicated that the decision to rejoin BOFEPUSU would have to be taken by the congress, which is the union’s supreme body. But now things have taken a dramatic twist as BOPEU has shown determination to fight BOFEPUSU to the bitter end. As BOFEPUSU was celebrating the victory at Gaborone High Court over the scope of work for PSBC, BOPEU was busy preparing court papers challenging the federation’s membership at the PSBC.

BOPEU wanted the federation’s membership in the PSBC nullified for failing to submit its audited membership. BOFEPUSU on the other hand argued that BOPEU is no longer part of the PSBC and therefore has no legal standing to bring the matter to court. Francistown High Court Judge Bengbame Sechele dismissed the urgent application by BOPEU on Tuesday night saying the union’s submission is misplaced. BOPEU is no longer a member of the PSBC after it failed to meet the deadline for submission of the number of its members. The union at that time indicated that it was still having its membership books audited. Tshukudu has accused BOPEU of being in cahoots with government to ensure that the PSBC is dysfunctional.
BOPEU President Masego Mogwera revealed that her office has not received any communication from BOFEPUSU. Mogwera who is based in Ramotswa stated that even if BOPEU secretariat had received the letter it could have long made her aware of such letter.

“There never passes a day without me passing by the office. So there is no how I could have missed such a letter plus our secretariat is very effective they could have notified me as soon as they receive anything that requires my attention. Even BOFEPUSU President we are very close if indeed he did write me the letter he could have checked with me if I received the letter,” Mogwera said. Mogwera who is the first woman President of BOPEU however maintained that even if the letter could reach her office there is no how she would act on the matter. She stated that no Executive Committee member or National Office Bearer could act on the matter. “Only the National Congress as the supreme body can take a decision on whether to rejoin BOFEPUSU or not”.Both BOFEPUSU and BOPEU have acknowledged that their court battles have negatively affected public servants. They believe at some point they should smoke the peace pipe. Responding to the ruling by Sechele, Mogwera said that the union leadership has requested its legal team to study the judgement and advise on the best option that should be taken. She indicated that for now the union has not taken a decision to appeal the ruling. Observers argue that unless and until the duo comes to the table and amicably resolve its problems the labour industry will remain in disarray to the detriment of public servants.

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