BFTU returns fire on BOFEPUSU

Other side of the coin: Mhotsha at Tuesday's press conference
Other side of the coin: Mhotsha at Tuesday's press conference

The Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) says it is unimpressed with government’s decision to nominate members of the Botswana Federation of Public Private Parastatals Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) as advisors and substitute delegates of the workers’ delegation to the recent International Labour Conference (ILC) in Switzerland.

The ILC is an annual global meeting of International Labour Organization (ILO) member states, with each delegation consisting of two government officials, an employer, a worker and their respective advisers. Worker delegates are nominated in agreement with the most representative national organisations of workers.

The two federations crossed swords in the Swiss capital last week, with disputes over who would represent local labour before the ILO and who would lead the case against the Botswana government for violating workers’ rights. Back on home soil, both federations called competing press conferences on Tuesday in which they lambasted each other, with BOFEPUSU demanding an audit of BFTU’s structures and questioning its right to exist.

Returning fire, BFTU secretary general, Gadzani Mhotsha said the issues stemmed from the names government submitted to the ILC’s Credentials Committee, which regulates the representatives each country submits for the annual conference.

Reports from Geneva indicate that tensions boiled over between the federations, to the point where BFTU officials were subjected to verbal and near physical assault.

Mhotsha said the federation had since reported government to the ILC’s Credentials Committee.

According to the BFTU secretary general, government nominated Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, Tobokani Rari, Johannes Tshukudu and Thatayaone Kesebonye, all from BOFEPUSU, for the roles of advisers and substitute delegates.

“The same thing happened again last year. We raised the matter but we were told it was late and our case could not be addressed.

“However the same happened again this year and we reported this to the Credentials Committee as it was violation of the provisions of ILC,” Mhotsha told journalists.

He said that the Credentials Committee had rejected government’s excuse that it was unable to determine the organisation most representative of Botswana workers, due to the lack of cooperation between the two federations.

“The Credentials Committee noted that the information provided by government on the issue was not sufficient as it lacked material details on the consultations it claimed,” the secretary general said.

“Government was advised to establish and apply objective and verifiable criteria for determining their representatives for the delegation in compliance with the ILO constitution,” he added.

Mhotsha said it appeared government had promised BOFEPUSU titular delegate status at this year’s ILC.

“BFTU remains the most representative organisation of the workers in the country as it represents diverse sectors,” he said.

“We expect government to address the issues relating to the altercation that happened between us and BOFEPUSU members in Switzerland.”

On Tuesday, BOFEPUSU demanded a structural audit of BFTU, claiming the federation had “only two people” being Mhotsha and its president, Bohithetswe Lentswe.

“None of you can tell me of a meeting, a congress or anything like that by the BFTU. We want to meet with the minister and call on him to audit the BFTU and establish whether it satisfies all legal parameters that govern trade unions,” said BOFEPUSU president, Johannes Tshukudu.

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