FRANCISTOWN: Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) has entered into strategic partnership with local and international organisations to transform itself.
Giving an address at the union’s general council meeting in Selibe-Phikwe recently, BMWU president Joseph Tsimako implored all union members to ditch political factions that ensued in the build up to the 2019 elective congress that ushered the new leadership for the greater good of the union.
“...I say to you that our administration is committed to delivering on the mandate you entrusted us with. I also implore those who were on the opposing side to leave the politics at the congress and focus on supporting the efforts of the leadership in transforming the Botswana Mine Workers Union. After all, unity is strength. The BMWU lost approximately 40 members across all branches during this period due to COVID-19. Since the end of the State of Public Emergency everyone is focusing on recovery, now and beyond. This has seen different entities coming up with innovative ways to survive the after effects of COVID-19, including the government,” Tsimako optimistically remarked.
A series of policies and frameworks like the RESET Agenda, Economic Recovery and Transformation Plans (ERTP) and Citizen Economic Empowerment Policy (CEEP), Tsimako pointed out, have been formulated to drive the economic recovery post the pandemic.
“Digitisation and green economies are where economies are going. Many companies are integrating the use of technology to optimise their operations including newer ways of generating energy. The mining sector has not been spared from this industrial transition, in fact mechanisation and automation are the future of mining operations in Botswana. COVID-19 has surely accelerated these developments and the future of work in the mining sector for unskilled and semi-skilled workers is bleak. What is clear is that the mining sector is moving at a very fast pace with these plans and we cannot afford as a union to be left behind. This has led to our ambitious goal of transforming the union and aligning it with developments happening nationally and globally in the world of work.”
Tsimako continued: “BMWU has been stagnant for years. Our members and the public had lost faith in our ability to deliver as a union. The closure of BCL negatively impacted our reputation, we saw a sharp decline in our revenue streams and membership. The union was not organised and strong enough to influence government policies. Mining managers no longer feared or respected the BMWU, they saw the union as a toothless bulldog who barked the loudest with no teeth to bite. Seeing this pitiful state of affairs, we embarked on a strategy to Transform the - Union and take it back to its Glory days. Our vision to transform this organisation is driven by three pillars; Capacity Building which is targeting leadership education and rebuilding grass roots structures; Transformation which is focusing on internal and external systems and processes; Sustainability (investments) the most critical, revenue generation and members wealth creation.”
Our transformation will be guided by the constitution of the BMWU, and where it is silent on specific issues, policies and regulations will be developed. It is important that Comrades familiarise and comply with these instruments, Tsimako elaborated.
“The political wing should know where its powers start and end, and where the administrative powers begin and end. These are simple governance issues which will be applied and adhered to, for proper implementation of decisions and further to avoid anarchy and disorder. I can assure you that as the superintendent of this organisation, a mandate given to me under Rule 35.1.4 of the BMWU constitution, I will be giving direction and supervising structures to meet these objectives,” he advised.
“To realise our transformation and take-over strategy, we needed to explore new revenue generating streams, enhance our brand visibility, create partnerships nationally and internationally, influence government policy through our assumption of strategic key decision-making positions in various institutions, both in government and the private sector. This is why the BMWU contested for positions at the just ended Botswana Federation of Trade Union (BFTU) congress. Two major reasons for this, BMWU is one of the two surviving founding members of the BFTU and the second largest contributing affiliate,” Tsimako elaborated.
“Secondly, mining issues are hardly advanced in national fora, and the BFTU through the High Level Consultative Council (HLCC) engages directly with President Mokgweetsi Masisi. We ensured that we get the key political positions in the BFTU Executive Board to advance the mine workers agenda. As you may already know, I am now the first deputy president of the BFTU, BMWU’s general secretary is chairperson for gender and the treasurer is the regional chairperson for Selebi-Phikwe, meaning that they will be directly engaging with Masisi and influencing policy change for mineworkers at the HLCC level. The BMWU also has representation at the Human Resources Development Council (HRDC) through the executive secretary, as part of this strategy. Other deployments will come in due course.”
Transformation, Tsimako noted, comes with changes.
“Changes in how we previously transacted the union’s business. Therefore, we aim to strengthen the secretariat with qualified personnel who can provide technical assistance to the political leadership. Our transformation will initiate a change management process that will bring changes in personnel, this includes our staff, as well as changes in the exercise of certain powers. We acknowledge that transformation can be uncomfortable particularly to those who have not yet embraced it (change). It is a scary process,” he pointed out.
However, we can all agree that change was always coming, and it was just a matter of time. We knew that the fourth industrial revolution would one day catch up with us, and that day is today, said Tsimako.
“The one thing that is not constant in life is change. Organisations all around us including our employers are transforming and adapting to new ways of doing business. As mineworkers, our survival as an organisation will be determined by our decisions today and the changes we make in the next two years to align strategy with sectoral and national developments,” Tsimako added.
Elaborating on how BMWU has achieved notable successes in the short term since we began this transformation agenda, Tsimako said: “We partnered with the Institute of Development Management (IDM) to assist the union in building its capacity, including development of our strategy and membership training. We have resuscitated friendships with the International Labour Office (ILO) and we expect to receive their funding for a project. We have signed several research Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with national and regional institutions of higher learning including, University of Pretoria (UP), International Lawyers Association Network (ILAW), Business and Human Rights Centre (BHRC) and about to conclude a MoU with University of Chicago Law School.”
He further continued: “We re-affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union and the BFTU. We are slated to receive funding to host various policy related workshops that will help build the reputation of the union: Currently, we are working on resuscitating Badirakhumo Investment Holdings and have identified several technical partners with whom we want to partner. The union has received several invitations to speak at international Conferences enhancing its footprint in the region and we have enhanced our media presence through our hard-hitting press statements and high-profile interviews on cases that we have won. Our presence on social media is also enhancing the visibility of the work of the Union.”