SELEBI-PHIKWE: Manual Workers Union chief executive officer (CEO), Johnson Motshwarakgole has encouraged trade union members to focus on the struggle instead of listening to hearsay and detractors ‘sabotaging’ the gains of the recently-concluded PEMANDU negotiations.
Addressing the Selebi-Phikwe Region union members on Thursday at Anne Adams Park, Motshwarakgole urged members to ignore toxic gossip lampooning him and other union leaders as sellouts for not supporting the ‘Ntlole’ proposal for the rest of the public servants, adding that although it would have benefited the already highly paid workers at other cooperating unions, supporting such would have spelt doom for the lowly paid workforce.
Motshwarakgole said he was recently booed at a teachers union conference and called all sorts of names as they accused him (Motshwarakgole) of selling the manual workers to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) during the negotiations.
He told unionists who attended the meeting in numbers that rumours swirl, but for the movement to succeed they ought to be ignored.
He cited that during the 2011 public servants mother-of-all-strikes he was also accused of having received P4 million from the President Ian Khama in order to betray the cause.
“That was not true because I hated Khama because of how he treated workers. I only encouraged unionists to end the strike because I didn’t agree to the strike, which lasted for more than two weeks. Rumours will always be there as even now there is hearsay that I have been bought for P5m by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, which is a lie,” he said.
Motshwarakgole added that he is also being crucified for lobbying for the lowly paid of the public sector during the PEMANDU negotiations in Lobatse. He said he was accused of attending night meetings with top government officials, something he said is not true.
He said: “There were no night meetings, in negotiations there is lobby and I could not lobby for the entire public service. I lobbied for you, the low paid hence I am being crucified. Issues of disagreement will always exist, but they should be ignored. That is part of the struggle. You (members) must listen to your leaders so that they can explain the facts to you. I did what I did for strategic reasons”.
Motshwarakgole further said trade unions must appreciate when Masisi’s government makes good effort, emphasising that it is important
Moreover, the union leader elaborated further on the issue of salary raise and medical aid agreement that government should pay 80% of the scheme cost effective from October 1, which timing he says is unrelated to the General Election.
He said that initially September was the suggested month but because the negotiations ended in September, it was impossible to act then as government had to be given time to prepare for the changes.
He said normally such raise and changes were supposed to be implemented next April in beginning of the next financial year.
He expressed disappointment in trade unions, which complained about the increase of the minimum wage saying for unions to go forward they should start from the bottom, with the lower-income public servants.
He added, “There are those who believed we did not do well by refusing Ntlole and percentage increase, but instead opting for increment in a pyramid by P500 for lowly paid. However, we are not bothered because we were fighting for manual workers, now that the minimum wage is P2,500, we can welcome the Ntlole idea”.
Meanwhile, his counterpart Mosala Phukuntsi, also shared the same sentiments as Motshwarakgole saying unionists should not listen to hearsay and social media reports, which are sometimes not true and misleading. He encouraged manual workers to stick together and avoid damning rumours damaging their own trade union.
Some attendants appreciated Motshwarakgole for a job well done saying he comes a long way fighting for workers rights.
Bernatte Salang described him as a conqueror that fought for manual workers even when he was being crucified. She said she was grateful that he did not get discouraged by the rumour mill and focused on working hard for their benefit. She praised the idea of building accommodation for members saying it is something that will give them the much-needed dignity.
A regional committee member, Mokgadi Sesinyi, praised Motshwarakgole saying he is a union veteran in the fight for the rights and welfare of low-income public servants. She discouraged members from dwelling on social media reports that can lead them astray.