The Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) has vowed to continue engaging the Office of the President in search of favourable work conditions for their members in spite of the accusation that they are sellout.
The union president Andrew Motsamai told members of the Media this week in Gaborone that those who question their engagement with OP do not understand the role of a trade union. Motsamai revealed that they recently met with President Ian Khama on the 23rd of March this year. “We are being referred to in veiled expressions, as sellouts, opportunists and that our union has been infiltrated by government agents,” he said.
President Ian Khama was invited as the guest speaker at BOPEU’s Annual General Convention last year. Khama praised BOPEU at the convention as the most responsible union and castigated other public sector unions as difficult to work with saying they are obsessed with the pursuit of political agendas. BOPEU, Khama said, has proven to be a union which truly represents the interests of workers as compared to other unions. Speaking in Francistown during May Day celebration, Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU) president, Johannes Tshukudu said government has of late been promoting divisions among trade unions and trade union leadership.
He said its support to one union is to weaken the other for political survival. He also accused government of “sponsoring some shortsighted trade union leaders to spy on the activities of their fellow comrades for personal gains against the masses.” BOPEU was not part of the May Day celebrations in Francistown, but had instead gone to Kang. Asked why this was so, Motsamai said that they only received notification a week before the event. “By that time we had accepted to move on and organise our main event in Kang.” He said that in 2015 they suffered from the fallout of the BOFEPUSU congress and being sidelined from meetings.
Motsamai lashed out at what he perceives a “double standard” in the treatment of unions. “When teachers’ unions engage the Ministry of Education and Skills Development on levels of operation or supervision of sporting activities outside the Bargaining Council, it is viewed by the media as a legitimate interaction, but when BOPEU interacts with OP it is selling out,” he observed. He also denied reports that BOPEU is interested in taking over the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS) from UNIGEM, a company from which they withdrew their shareholding last year November.
The P500million contract which is currently run by UNIGEM following a six months extension by the government is coming to an end this month. Government is currently preparing to administer the scheme. Earlier this year, reports from Ministry of Finance and Development Planning suggested that government was planning to give the scheme to BOPEU before the end of this year as payback for its loyalty.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has not endorsed any candidate for the crucial elections to its central committee that will be the major item on the agenda of the ruling party’s congress in July in Mmadinare.
Deputy Administrative Secretary Lee Lesetedi has rubbished rumours that the party had endorsed Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi as utter speculation. Nothing of the sort was agreed at a BDP meeting that was held in Palapye on Monday this week, Lesetedi said. The rumour was the result of a misunderstanding, he explained. When one councillor asked Masisi if he was standing for the chairmanship of the party at the Palapye meeting, Masisi’s response was that he would answer the question only if it was asked by the President.
In Lesetedi’s view, endorsement was neither right nor wrong because such a conclusion would depend on the motive. There would be nothing wrong with endorsing a person of the right calibre to take the party to greater heights, he said. He emphasized that any endorsement would have to be done carefully to avoid factions that may arise in the party as a result of people taking sides. According to Lesetedi, the BDP wants all the candidates to have the liberty and an equal opportunity to contest.
Asked why this time around the BDP was not endorsing any individual as former president Festus Mogae had done with Khama as chairman, he said that was not an option in today’s circumstances because the party had to be called to order after Mogae’s endorsement of Khama. “Remember that the endorsement of Khama was a remedy to BDP factions,” he said. “It was intended to stop divisions within the party. For us to endorse an individual, there has to be very good reasons, such as when the stability of the party is under threat.”
The endorsement of Khama during Mogae’s tenure was an attempt to neutralize factionalism in the BDP which was torn between the Merafhe-Nkate and Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe factions. Khama subsequently defeated Ponatshego Kedikilwe for the chairmanship of the BDP at a congress held in Ghanzi. Asked about the calibre of candidates that the party wants, Lesetedi said he could only comment once the party had consulted its members on what kind of candidate are wanted.
But can the BDP avoid situations where a successful candidate quits as a throwback to what happened after Guma Moyo defeated Pelonomi Venson-Motoi at a congress in Maun?
Biggie Butale, Dikgakgamatso Seretse, Tebelelo Seretse, Dithapelo Tshotlego, Seteng Motalaote and Moemedi Dijeng are in the race for the BDP chairmanship.
President Ian Khama this week urged the private sector to “intensify” its participation in the country’s development agenda, saying it’s the “key foundation” for economic growth and wealth creation.
Speaking at the 38th High Level Consultative Council meeting held at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) Khama said that productive and competitive enterprises are also vital for economic growth. He said that the private sector is capable of sustaining the country’s growth on a continual basis and therefore urged government to break down all barriers that hinder doing business.
He implored government to nurture mutual cooperation between itself and the private sector to facilitate discussion of policy and strategy aimed at developing the country. Government, he said, continues to work aggressively to catapult diversification and sustain growth in the economy. Although not easy Khama said it requires boldness, assertiveness, hard work, a supportive regulatory environment and pro-business approach by both private and public sectors. He added that attraction of foreign direct investment remains key to job creation and transfer of intellectual capital.
“We therefore need to ensure Botswana becomes one of the top destinations in Africa.” Addressing the issue of delays in issuance of residence permits, Khama said the private sector should approach the relevant line ministries who understand their nature of business to advocate their case with the ministry of labour and home affairs. Meanwhile Botswana’s economic recovery has been a challenge to sustain with annual growth rate declining from 6.1 percent in 2011 to 4.2 percent in 2012, 9.3 percent in 2013 only to decline to 4.4 percent in 2014.