Winston Radikolo, the BOSETU president chats with The Monitor about his radical legacy ahead of the 2021 BOSETU Virtual Congress.
The Monitor: You are described in the trade union movement as a fervent, no-nonsense activist, how did you get the label?
Radikolo: Hahaha, I take that as a compliment. But you see comrade (cde) when elected into the leadership of any organisation those who voted for you and by extension, those who didn’t vote for you, entrust you with their welfare, their hard-earned assets and in some instances their general livelihood, therefore as elected leaders, we must take the privilege and responsibility seriously. In short, I take this responsibility seriously as a leader.
The Monitor: The firing of BOSETU executive secretary last year appears to have been one of the most anticipated events in BOSETU after your election in 2017, but have all the issues that clouded his tenure been extensively addressed?
Radikolo: Let me set the record straight, the contract of our executive secretary was not renewed, he was not fired. BOSETU carried out a forensic audit, which was presented to Annual Conference last year, and in its wisdom, the conference directed leadership to refer to or involve the law enforcement department where it was necessary for each issue raised, therefore the issue is still at that stage.However, administrative issues pointed out by FA have been addressed internally.
The Monitor: At one point, rumours of BOSETU in partnership with some companies to set up computers/tablets manufacturing plant in Phikwe emerged, was there some truth or what is the latest about that project?
Radikolo: Yes, it’s true, we own a stake in a company called MOROTEC trading as ALMAZ. Like any other emerging manufacturing company, we were not spared by COVID-19, but we are trying to stay afloat.
The Monitor: A brief history of your trade union activism before you rose to become president of BOSETU.
It started in 2001 during the famous, ‘Action short of strike 2001’ ‘Go slow’ then I rose from shop-stewardship (cell level) to Regional Chairperson Fractivism, which later merged with Tonota Region and North East Regions to North East Region from 2011 to 2017. Then 2017, I was elected to the office of the BOSETU presidency.
The Monitor: You are also described as a very accomplished man. May you please share with us your credentials?
Radikolo: I believe that education is a prerequisite for leadership in these volatile labour spaces. As a leader I also tried to keep speeding myself to challenges as follows
l Master Strategic Management (University of Derby/ BAC)
l Bachelor of Education (Science) University of Botswana.
l Certificate in Enterprise Risk Management- BAC
l Certificate in Leadership Development- IDM
l Certificate in Strategic Management- UNISA
l Certificate of Proficiency (Long term insurance) IISA/BAC
l Certificate of Proficiency (long term Practice) IISA/BAC
Several short courses on Corporate Governance, Labour law, Operations, Finance and Marketing.
The Monitor: You were nowhere in the executive team of BOSETU when you first challenged for the presidency, was that not a tall order? What gave you the courage to aim so high at the time?
Radikolo: It was a tall order Comrade, I was relatively unknown to a lot of people and regarded as a ‘novice’ because I was from outside NATEX. Therefore, I had to work extra hard to sell my vision to the people, but gradually most people started to appreciate my vision and roadmap. My vision for BOSETU was the driving force. I felt that there was a missing piece on the whole leadership mix, and something told me I was that missing piece.
The Monitor: It sure looks like BOSETU wanted a radical president when they got you in, but would you say you had lived up to the bar?
Radikolo: Hahaha. I tried to live up to the expectations of the hard-to-please BOSETU membership. They despise mediocrity. Our members demand accountability, quality services and products. And I have provided that. I believe I did not disappoint. I was surrounded by positive energy right from branches all the way to the National Governing Council.
The Monitor: That radical transformation that BOSETU yearned for at the time, where are we now?Radikolo: We needed to work on our governance, governance architecture and products and services. We have tried to improve our governance by reviewing and introducing several internal policies and guidelines.
The Monitor: Talking about radicalism, COVID-19 seems to bring out the best of radical ideas from BOSETU, from calling for voiding of the calendar year to calling for recognition of teachers as frontline workers, would you say your radical stance paid off?Radikolo: Our calls were primarily to protect our members and also to protect our clients. We know how much they are exposed. We are an organisation that has always preached quality results, our opinion has always been consistent.
The Monitor: During your tenure, has bosetu membership grown?Radikolo: Yes sir! we experienced exponential growth in our membership. Our numbers grew from 14000+ to 18000+. This is not by accident, it was well planned. We had crafted an ambitious membership drive strategy housed by National Organising Desk. Themed ‘20,000 members by 2020’, it paid the dividend. A noteworthy development is that we have brought Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) to our fold, we are very excited by this development.
The Monitor: Your term also coincided with the coming in of the new head of state and government, President Mokgweetsi Masisi. What had been your impression so far? Anything for workers? Is it an approachable government?
Radikolo: I think the current regime needs to make a serious introspection, particularly on implementation. They have nice, well-grafted intents but implementing them seems to be a problem. I suspect that we have the wrong people running the implementation machinery of the government.
The government is approachable, but you see being approachable is one thing but service delivery is another thing. There are good intentions for workers, but implementing them seem to be problematic. This introduces a slight cast of doubt on the genuine convictions of the intentions of any action. Talk of good recommendations of the Performance Management & Delivery Unit zero implementation. The attitude is bad for the country.
The Monitor: It was during your term that a cumulative 20% salary increase for public servants was achieved for 2019 and 2020. Looking back, does it give you a sense of accomplishment for your members?
Radikolo: At first, we thought it was an accomplishment because it was restoring the workers purchasing power but the gains have since been eroded by the many levies introduced as the government recovery plan. I really appreciate the government situation, but I thought these levies could be put in abeyance until we have somewhat recovered from COVID.
The Monitor: The Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) resuscitation was
Radikolo: I have alluded earlier to implementation of government intents, the resuscitation of the PSBC is a classical case of non-implementation. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) will tell you that they are committed to seeing PSBC up and running but their acts, conduct and body language points in a different direction. There is a lack of political will from those offices. The tussles and power struggles among unions to some extend also played a role in delaying the process. However, these have been addressed, I am hopeful that all negotiating parties will come to the table.
The Monitor: BOSETU adopted a policy on disability in the workplace, how should we expect you to push it for adoption by the ministry for the benefits of the teaching cadre?
Radikolo: That is correct my leader. BOSETU has always pushed the government for this policy, we realised that re letile lefifi, then through our gender desk we formulated a comprehensive disability in the workplace policy.
Further to that, we drew a campaign for the adoption by the ministries that we are organising from. Our campaign was seriously disturbed by COVID-19, it will be rolled out from May 2021 of course with a changed tactic from the previous one.
The Monitor: One of the labour issues that got government and teachers in a stand-off is the remuneration for sports activities. The ministry is complaining that it is too expensive and unsustainable at the rate you expect them to pay, any resolution of the impasse on the horizons?
Radikolo: Quality products and services are expensive my leader. Look all over the world, sports is a money spinner. The most paid workers in the world are in the sport fraternity, your Ronaldo and the Messi’s of this world. As BOSETU we see sports as a long term investment, therefore our views are that teachers, patrons and coaches, should be remunerated accordingly. There is a task force established to look into the matter and it is to report very soon, but I don’t expect much because teachers’ unions as reps of teachers and custodians of teacher welfare negotiations were excluded from the task team, we thought we were the starting points.
The Monitor: 2020 started with COVID, 2021 starts with its own more devastating COVID, what’s your take on the unfolding picture?
Radikolo: My leader the situation is bad. We are losing our comrades. It’s ugly cde. At the beginning of COVID-19, we were responsive and alert. I think we slowly became complacent as a nation and started dropping the guard. We did not have the right risk management plans particularly in schools even though we knew teachers and students were coming back from the festive season where preventive protocols were compromised. As BOSETU we have made calls to the government to provide teachers with PPEs and for teachers to be among the first batch to be inoculated.
The Monitor: Botswana recorded its highest incidents of GBV incidents in the country amidst COVID-19 last year, how is BOSETU intervening to help members overcome this raging evil?
Radikolo: Through our gender secretary we staged two workshops on GBV in schools and the secondary sector desk collaborated with Childline Botswana through our initiative called, ‘My Student, My Child’, solely to deal with GBV in schools regarding the boy-child and girl-child.
Through these workshops and campaign, we sensitise the nation of this pandemic. We also have school-based workshops to sensitise our members on GBV and related issues.
We are on the verge of establishing a counselling unit for our members in all our regional offices to help members in times of need. Cde the world over is talking workers wellbeing and mental health and GBV is one of the causes, therefore, we took deliberate action to face it head-on.
The Monitor: How is the ministry addressing this challenge in the teaching cadre?
Radikolo: In some of our interventions we are collaborating with the ministries, but I still feel more needs to be done from their corner. I challenge them to come forward and claim their rightful position and role in the fight against this monster. It’s a wellbeing and welfare issue. Mohiri (the employer) should be concerned.
The Monitor: BOSETU presented a radical alternative to a range of taxes and levies that the government introduced, do you feel you have failed to convince the government to take a different approach?
Radikolo: Not really comrade. The government was not prepared to move even an itch. They are in a non-compromising mode. Our belief and expectation are that issues that border on the welfare and livelihood of our members should be matters of engagement but as for this one, nothing even to hint. In hindsight maybe we did not lobby aggressively enough.
The Monitor: Last year BOSETU set up its brokerage firm, we understand in its first year, it netted P16 million, how did you achieve that?
Radikolo: That is correct, as a way of broadening our social and economic services basket and to diversify the revenue streams we registered a brokerage firm. Hahaha, I am not sure about the P16 million, I think it is exaggerated but we are a crawling firm, which has a bright future. Our ambitious five-year strategy talks about improved member beneficiation packages it is not by chance.
Cde it was by design. It will be remiss if I don’t appreciate the contribution of our BOSETU Funeral Scheme board and Botswana Insurance Company board, they are made up of men and women who are focused.
The Monitor: The government has announced a 50% freeze of filling of vacancies, how is this going to affect the quality of teaching?
Radikolo: If the plan is implemented wholesale like it is the government trademark, it will be catastrophic. COVID-19 has exposed deficiencies in our establishment registers in schools. We need more teachers in schools. We don’t have a superfluous staff or redundant personnel in schools we are in serious shortages. Primary education is the hardest hit.
I hope the reverse will be in order at the Ministry of Basics Education and the same can be said with the Ministry of Labour and Skills Development.
Currently, teachers are seriously overstretched with loads of work per week and classes with students numbering in the range of 50s. This state of affairs does not only affect the quality of teaching and learning it also adversely affects the health of teachers. I plead with the President to put the intervention on hold.