Continues from last weeků
Any attempt to interpret trade union independence to mean that workers must divorce themselves from the politics of the country will not only be reactionary but counterproductive.
Our very DNA as workers is politics. Every demand and every campaign we take up is political and ideologically inspired. No one can divorce workers from both local, national and global politics, There is no room for neutrality in particular in a class divided societies Botswana included.
The question we must learn from the experiences of our region is how do we avoid external political manipulation and how do we guarantee trade union independence even when we warm up to political parties that have policies not hostile to those we seek to advance?
Decent work and conditions do not fall down from the sky like manna. Progressive and pro working class and or pro poor policies do not just happen on their own. Even ripe fruit often means someone must shake the trees for it to fall.
That’s what revolution is all about. Nothing ever just happens automatically. Change can only happen when there are champions for change. BOPEU must from this historic congress ask itself - who will be the champions for change in Botswana if it’s not going to be yourselves working with the rest of the progressive forces?
BOPEU has a formidable reputation across the region. It is a union formation that has worked hard to provide services for its membership
. It has been visionary, especially in using members money to enhance social provision. It is a union formation that takes great care to ensure that its resources are used wisely, and transparently so that workers know where their subscriptions are being used and for what purpose.
For now it appears that BOPEU has been able to maintain its independence, and has not allowed itself to be used by politicians. We sincerely hope this approach is maintained, but forgive for saying this, but the ‘price of democracy is eternal vigilance!
There will be those forces that at every turn will try and influence BOPEU, they will try and blunt your militancy, they will try and undermine your
They will try and seduce your leadership, and encourage them to see that they no longer have distinct class interests to protect.
We need to ensure that we share and learn these lessons from one another. We have to be candid and frank with each other.
Never has there been a greater need for a strong, united and independent workers’ movement, but most our federations in the region have been paralysed.
We can either stay with those who kow-tow to the ruling elite and the capitalist class, or we can unite the entire working class and poor communities to rebuild a labour movement based on democratic mandates, accountability and mass campaigning. That is why those of us now outside COSATU are working towards a Workers’ Summit, bringing together the workers from all federations, including COSATU, all unions, non-union workers and the unemployed. It is our only chance to turn the tide and revive the militancy of the original COSATU. My comradely advice to all of you, is to ensure that you revisit the principles that our movements were founded upon, and ensure that they are followed as they were years ago, to build a strong, independent, democratic and determined BOPEU.
Comrades, we need to forge a new fighting force to take on the bosses but it must be as broad-based and democratic as possible, and organised from the bottom up, with policies hammered out by the members themselves and leaders elected, accountable and subject to recall.
We need to ensure that there is no gap between union members and union leaders. They must be organically linked, so that no one, no counter force, is able to exploit the gaps that have opened up, and divert us from our historic mission.
We have to be models of accountable democracy! Our unions were formed to represent workers, but also to ensure that we live in a society that reflects the values and principles that guide us. This is our mission. Let us work together to achieve it. I wish you a successful congress. I thank you Maatla ke arona ! Amandla ngawethu!