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Tlhagale warns trade unions against ‘state capture’

BMWU Jack Tlhagale
FRANCISTOWN: The Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) has expressed concern that relations between trade unions and government have become ‘too cosy’, which may blunt the unions’ fight for workers’ rights.

The union’s president Jack Tlhagale said the bromance between President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s led government and trade unions has to cease with immediate effect.

Tlhagale was delivering a solidarity message at the commemoration of Labour Day, organised by the Botswana Federation Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) and Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) in Francistown.

He warned that should the trend continue, it would cripple the country’s labour movements and derail them from their core mandate.

According to Tlhagale, what it is even more worrying is that some trade union leaders openly praise the current government through various platforms. “Stop praising the government. We have to be careful with how we relate with the current government.

If we are not considerate in terms of how we relate with the government, we will soon be captured,” he said to murmurs of approval from some BOFEPUSU and BFTU members. He added: “There are still many challenges that workers in this country face. Unions should continue advocating and advancing the plight of the workers including of those in the private sector. We really have to stop somewhere (praising government) and continue to address the plight of workers.”   During former president Ian Khama’s presidency, government had developed antipathy towards trade unions.  As a result, the Khama regime was deeply loathed by unions.

However, since he took over, Masisi has earned praise from some trade union stalwarts such as Johnson Motshwarakgole who used to be a harsh critic of Khama and his administration.

Some trade union leaders perceive Masisi to be honest and transparent when dealing with trade unions.

In addition, trade unions may not have achieved their targeted salary increment during

the salary negotiations with government a few months ago, but they celebrated the cordial atmosphere and transparent manner in which the talks were conducted.

There is even heightened talk that the improving relations between government and trade unions might alter the country’s political landscape and compromise the prospects of the opposition at the general elections billed for October this year.

Trade union movements, most particularly BOFEPUSU, which have often been seen to be critical to government, have even scaled down their criticism of the government.

Meanwhile, the secretary general of Domestic Workers Association Malebogo Oitsile has said that despite the major role they play in the economy, their employers continue to exploit them.

Oitsile said so during the Labour Day (Worker’s Day) celebrations that were jointly organised by BOFEPUSU and BFTU at the Old Francistown Stadium on Wednesday.

She said: “We call on government to hear our voices. Despite our contribution to the economy of this country, we continue to be exploited and are susceptible to abuse, excessive working hours, restriction of movement and sometimes working without pay for many months among a myriad of problems that we face daily at our work stations,” Oitsile said.

She cried out that despite being custodians of their employers’ property and children, they are treated differently from workers in the formal sector.

“Our employers treat us as slaves. We call on government to revise how we are paid because we are paid peanuts. We also want government to revisit the Immigration Act to protect migrant domestic workers from foreign countries who are treated badly by their employers,” Oitsile said, adding that she was proud to be a domestic worker.




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