Elsewhere in this edition, there is a story about the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) P30 million housing project for its members.
According to the story, the union would be building 500 units on a five-hectare plot. The agreement for BOPEU Estates has reportedly been concluded between the partners. Apparently the houses would be built at half the market price. The largest public sector union has already concluded mortgage deals with BancABC to finance their members to acquire houses.
This is a progressive move by BOPEU and should be applauded by all. Union members belonging to different labour movements in Botswana are always crying that they do not get favour for their subscription fees. The members only get to enjoy their subscriptions when they are dead.
That is when a fat cheque would be signed for the funeral of the fallen union member. And it is now fashionable for the unions to buy expensive caskets for the deceased members. The idea is to bury members in dignity and we are not saying that is wrong. But why wait for the member to die and spend thousands of money on him/her when you failed to extend that benevolence when s/he was alive?
It is an open secret that majority of the working class in Botswana are living in poverty. We are not blaming unions for the poverty of members but they are equally to blame. Most of the union leadership do not have the welfare of their members at heart and spend most of their activism fighting each other in the leadership.
Instead of coming up with progressive ideas like the BOPEU Housing Project, most of the time is wasted fighting factional battles at the courts of law. And these unnecessary wars are bleeding some of the union coffers dry. It is not a secret that some of the unions are richer than others. Some of the unfortunate unions operate on shoestring budgets but the little they get from subscriptions of loyal members is wasted in litigations.
Litigation in Botswana does not come cheap. Lawyers are in the business of selling their legal advice; they did not spend five years or more at the university to come and bill peanuts. Therefore, it is wise for other progressive unions, and they are plenty, to learn from the books of BOPEU. The welfare of members comes first and the unions should come up with ideas to help the government to fight lack of accommodation for employees. Housing is a basic human right and all the employees should be encouraged to own their own houses. in the SMME environment.