Last Updated
Monday 25 May 2015, 18:00 pm.
The young nurse in BONU's hot seat

Given the uneasy relations between government and labour movements, leading a new union can be a daunting task. The recently elected Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) president, 32-year-old Lebogang Phillip recently opened up about his new role to Staff Writer CHAKALISA DUBE at the Institute of Health Sciences (IHS)
By Staff Writer Wed 27 May 2015, 05:34 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: The young nurse in BONU's hot seat

Mmegi: Congratulations on clinching the presidential post of the Botswana Nurses Union (BONU). Firstly introduce yourself.

Phillip: It is an honour and a privilege to be elected the first president of the union. Furthermore, being elected unopposed is a great sign that union members have confidence in my ability. I am a 32-year old father of two. I will soon marry the mother of my kids, Judith Tshenolo, who is also a nurse. I am the second born in a family of five and I hail from Ramokgonami.

Mmegi: Elaborate further on your educational and career background please.

Phillip: I hold a diploma in general nursing, which I obtained from the Institute of Health Sciences (IHS) in Serowe. I began working as a nurse in Lobatse in 2003 and later worked at Gweta village clinic.
I then worked at Tutume Clinic until I was transferred to Bontleng Clinic in Gaborone nearly two years ago after I was elected the Nurses Association of Botswana (NAB) president. I attended Sebeso Primary School in Ramokgonami and Mmaphula Community Secondary School as well as Lotsane Senior Secondary in Palapye.

Mmegi: You are probably among the first young Batswana to lead a trade movement, how do you feel?

Phillip: I believe I was born a leader. I was a prefect at Lotsane before becoming a head boy at the school. I also headed the Scripture Union at Tutume Brigade during my time at Tirelo Sechaba in 1999. I am also the youth secretary of the African Born Full Gospel Church in Gaborone of which I am an active member - that is why I believe I was born to lead. I have also served in various leadership positions at NAB until I became its president in 2010 before it transformed into BONU.

Mmegi: You are among the people who have been instrumental in the transformation of NAB into BONU. Can you take us through the transformation of NAB from BONU?

Phillip: I have always had a strong view that nurses must have their own union which understands their specific needs and challenges. Nurses were also scattered across various unions around the country so it was hard to address their challenges. It was even confusing to the authorities. The association was also overtaken by events.But like you said, I should take you through the transformation of NAB into BONU.

The resolution to transform NAB into BONU was passed by the association's members in 2010 at the NAB Annual General Meeting (AGM). A survey was also done thereafter and most nurses interviewed indicated that they were content with the formation of the union. That is how BONU came into being in July this year.

Mmegi: But the union is also yet to get recognition from the Directorate of Public Service Management.
We were told by DPSM that in order to be recognised as a union we would have to bring all the signatures of our 4,000 union members, something that we are opposed to because this is not a requisite to register a union in the country.

The exercise is costly and will require nearly a million Pula to carry out. DPSM also stated that some cases have set the precedence for the need of unions to have signatures of their union members at DPSM. That is why we are required to bring our members' signatures. We will however try to establish if there are such cases before mapping our way forward.

Mmegi: What do you want to achieve during your four-year term as BONU head?

Phillip: During the year 2013 we intend to sensitise members of the public about the importance of our union as well as establishing the union structures around the country. After that we will continue with our mandate of fighting for the improved welfare of our members.

Mmegi: Trade unions have often been accused of channelling their energy on the improvement of the welfare of their members rather than professional development. What is your take on this one?

Phillip: You have asked me a good question. Our union is the first in the country to have a professional affairs secretary whose task, among others, will be to come up with initiatives on how our members can enhance their work skills to attain excellence.

Mmegi: What is your message to other nurses who are yet to affiliate with BONU?
My message is clear - they should come and affiliate with BONU because it is the only union that can best represent them.

Mmegi: There are some unions that were reportedly against NAB turning into a union because they believed your (BONU) presence would weaken them as they were going to lose some members to your movement. How true is that?

Phillip: We do not need any union to endorse us. Forming this union was not done in bad faith.
We saw the need to have a movement that best addresses challenges of the nursing profession. That is why we decided to form BONU.

Mmegi: Lastly, you recently complained of strained relations between the Ministry of Health (MoH) and BONU, can you elaborate on that?

Phillip: The ministry has been cooperative over some matters. The problem is that officials from the ministry have been reluctant to meet us and discuss challenges of the nursing profession, which is what we want. We hope they will bow to our proposals though.

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