It’s a bare-knuckled fist-fight

09th May 2017



You can bet your bottom dollar, we are headed for hectic times, not only in the political arena, but also in our wider civil society space, especially in the labour movement. Indeed, our state machinery must brace itself for a fight to end all fights.

BOFEPUSU -  the federation for public sector unions - has rolled up its sleeves and is itching for an all-out war with the state apparatus. The intention is that when the dust is settled in 2019, the Union Movement would have realised regime change.

Indeed, our brazen and utterly tenacious government, with its bull in a China shop mentality, has brought this unto itself. It has resisted all reasonable measures and attempts at dialogue with the Labour Movement.

As the employer, Government should have considered the pros and cons before she submitted to the signing and ratification of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Conventions that ushered in the dispensation of collective bargaining under trade unionism.

Government left it until it was too late to repudiate her commitment only to resort to insipid and subtle manoeuvres and machinations all intended to frustrate the working class in the enjoyment of its rights. We are afraid it has now boiled down to an all-out open confrontation in which government will obviously emerge badly bruised.

Now the time for our Government to understand the full meaning of the aphorism, ‘hell hath no fury than a woman scorned’ has dawned upon us! We are convinced that BOFEPUSU’s threat to take the brawl into the political arena is real.

Botswana Democratic Party-led government knows fully well the consequences of a fallout with the Labour Movement and should not dare a repeat of the last general election in which some of its members were blacklisted and dismally lost at the ballot.

BOFEPUSU’s exit from the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC), a statutory body it has defended all this while, has a foreboding to it, and we warn the BDP Government to be prepared for the outcome.

Government and indeed the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) must now circumnavigate the fissures it has created in the entire administration – from the legislature to executive and judiciary including any other oversight agency through its hard-headedness.

The 3% and 4% selective and unilateral salary increments awarded to certain segments of the public service workforce outside the purview of the PSBC was always going to be a cannon-fodder for labour disputes.

Various court injunctions have declared them unlawful, but the recent contentious Court of Appeal ruling in favour of BOPEU for a stay of execution, was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Not only is BOFEPUSU contending the fairness of the process produced the result, it is also imputing judicial manipulation by the executive.

Now this is a serious accusation with far-reaching repercussions. The ruling has now clearly defined the Labour Movement along political lines. We have BOFEPUSU and its affiliates backing Umbrella for Democratic Change while BOPEU and some of its cohorts, is pro-government and by extension, pro-BDP. But then there is a deal breaker here presented in the person of the Botswana Congress Party, which by all intents and purposes, is a member of the UDC.

However, its ambivalence in this matter, could throw the BDP a lifeline. Indeed, we are headed for very exciting times. Sadly, the poor worker is caught in the cross-fire. While some believe BOFEPUSU acted impetuously by quitting the PSBC without first seeking the mandate of its membership through a congress, others take solace in the fact that they have merely changed tactics and not necessarily abandoned the struggle for workers’ rights.
Outside the PSBC, their members can also benefit from the 3% and 4% salary increment while the federation engages in a political conflagration with a towering Goliath.

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