Controversial unionist Andrew Motsamai resurfaces in BNF lobby lists

Nicholas Mokwena-BG reporter
Wednesday, 15 April 2020
Andrew Motsamai Andrew Motsamai

For a man who boasts of an illustrious career in the public service, Andrew Motsamai presents simply a resourceful and great leadership opportunity for Botswana National Front and by extension the Umbrella for Democratic change (UDC). His name appears in two of the BNF lobby lists, as a possible contestant for the position of Health Secretary. 


Interestingly, he is the only contender for the position, thereby suggesting that both lobby lists have faith in him and endorse him. He appears in the lobby list led by President Advocate Duma Boko and another led by Vice President Dr. Prince Dibeela who is challenging the former for the top seat. Motsamai's close associates are quick to point out that, this latest move was long overdue. In fact to them it was always going to be a matter of fate. His father, the late Frank Motsamai, was a BNF stalwart, whose close collaboration with the regional BNF leadership in the 1980’s consolidated the party's dominance in Kgatleng East.  


It is said that BNF committee meetings were held in the family household, from which regional campaigns were often launched. This was an exciting time for opposition politics, which birthed the radical and intellectual generation of activists that came of age under the stewardship of political giants such as Isaac Mabiletsa, Lemogang Ntime and the late Paul Rantao. 


Andrew Motsamai was to carry this political orientation throughout his student life and professional career. He was to later engrave his name in the labour movement as a trade unionist. As president of Botswana Civil Service Association (BCSA), Motsamai was instrumental in its transformation to the present-day Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), which he served as president until 2016. 


He was also to later become instrumental in the formation of Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU), serving as founding President and later as full time Secretary General. 


It was during this period at the helm of BOFEPUSU, that Motsamai coordinated a spirited command of union activists comprising of Goretetse Kekgonegile, Ibo Kenosi, Raymond Malanga including his estranged comrade-turned rival Johnson Motshwarakgole of Manual Workers Union in the largest mass-action ever, the 2011 public sector strike dubbed  'The mother of all strikes'.


The period after the 2011 public sector strike, saw concerted efforts by the progressive left forces to unite the opposition parties in Botswana.  Owing in part to his influential role within the leadership of BOFEPUSU, Motsamai became a contact point between opposition parties (BMD, BPP, BNF & BCP) with the convenors of opposition talks Emang Maphanyane and Lebang Mpotokwane and BOFEPUSU. 


It was not surprising then that following the death of BMD president Gomolemo Motswaledi, Motsamai's name alongside that of Uyapo Ndadi, Rasina Winfred Rasina, Thuso Tiego and Dr. Phenyo Butale, was mentioned as likely favourites to contest for the Gaborone Central Parliamentary seat. However, Motsamai publicly denied harbouring any political interests at the time, most likely owing to his immediate responsibilities as then President of BOPEU.  


Motsamai is however not without controversy. He was alleged to be assisting the BNF with financial and political support through BOPEU, which assistance led to BNF winning the Goodhope / Mabule and Tlokweng 2017 bye-elections under the UDC ticket and subsequent council seats in other constituencies. 


When contacted to comment whether indeed he will be contesting for the Central Committee position in the BNF, Motsamai confirmed his appearance in the lobby list but declined to discuss any further, what he terms, internal party matters. Reached for comment, Motsamai’s known close ally, Rasina who worked with Motsamai at BOPEU said that:


“Motsamai has always been a BNF stalwart. He has always been clear about it and his thought process is that of the BNF command and his views about governance are equally too BNF oriented.” Although Rasina was cagey with details, he however confirmed to this publication that he has had discussions with Motsamai after he (Motsamai) was talked into campaigning.


On Motsamai's decision to shun the opportunity to show his political prowess when approached in 2014 to replace the late Motswaledi Rasina said: "I discussed that with him and his position was that Sir G was his brother and was protecting his legacy by refusing to contest. He explained that he would like to carry the legacy on unionism platform. He welcomed the arrival of Dr. Butale on grounds that he came sober at the time when there were differing views by contracting partners on who should be considered." 


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