Botswana Media and Allied Workers' Union (BOMAWU) was finally launched in Gaborone last Friday in the presence of the Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi. The VPís presence came as a surprise to many in the media fraternity, as it has been a long held belief that he was not friendly with local media and was emulating his boss.
A properly structured and functioning media workers' union was overdue and a welcome move that the media fraternity fully embraces. BOMAWU, led by journalist Philemon Mmeso, stands to represent not only members of the fourth and fifth estates of the realm, but also all workers within media houses, public relations firms, online publications, not leaving out freelancers. According to the media workers union president, it exists to represent media workers in their various capacities and advocate for better pay and conditions of service on their behalf.
Like most unions, BOMAWU is expected to formulate schemes with banks and other organisations for the benefit of its members. This, with the hope it would take on board the plight of journalists by engaging all stakeholders from employers, employees and relevant authorities to ensure a good relationship is cultivated and maintained in the field.
For many years, journalists have written news articles about the plight of workers in various fields; the suffering of ordinary people in remote and urban areas; and have even solicited assistance for such people when they were cases themselves. It is important to note that a union needs cool-headed individuals to be successful. It is imperative to also note that it would take a great deal of hard work, many years of perseverance, compromise and a steadfast vision to build a strong union. There is evidence that some unions have failed or are divided
Such characters are either pushing personal agendas to enrich themselves or do the bidding of the unseen hand while completely ignoring their set mandate of fighting for the rights of the workers. Such scenarios have played out under the watchful eye of the media. Some even made newspaper headlines.
However, others were ignored by the very custodians placed there to protect them. The media holds a very important position in society and should not be seen to be flirting with any individual, organisation or ideology. For BOMAWU to remain resolute, it must be totally independent of any external influence. We, therefore, implore BOMAWU to engage with existing entities such as the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), the Press Council of Botswana, the Editors Forum and the Publishers Forum to advance the course of journalism in Botswana.
Unions have been used to destabilise governments and churches, and with BOMAWU we hope that it would not be used to destabilise newsrooms. Nonetheless, newborn BOMAWU is welcome. We should all play our part in raising this baby with good upbringing to make it a celebrated member of the media family. Viva BOMAWU! Viva!
“The role of a labour union is to ensure that the balance is not tipped in favour of the employer when employees do not receive wages and benefits commensurate with their contribution.”
— William Burrus