BOFEPUSU assures united opposition of votes

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FRANCISTOWN: Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) has assured a united opposition of its vote in the 2014 general elections, a leading member of BOFEPUSU revealed last Sunday.

Speaking at the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) 10th conference held at the Aerodrome Primary School here, BOFEPUSU publicity secretary, Goretetse Kekgonegile said to thunderous applause in the hall: " As BOFEPUSU, another umbrella organisation comprising five public sector unions, we support the umbrella and should it work, we are going to vote for it."

He then warned politicians who have a tendency of breaking away from their parties only to reappear as independent candidates that they have no place in the hearts of the workers.

"Yo o tla nnang mokoko ga a bo ke nageng (Politicians who would opt to become independents must know that they will not enjoy BOFEPUSU support) " he warned those who were not committed to the umbrella body model recently adopted by the oppositions BCP, Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP).

The militant Kekgonegile stated: "If there is a need for workers to be militant and combative, then we will fight for our rights."

Kekgonegile, who is also the leader of the Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU) recognised the importance of the BCP conference as a trade unionist.

"We recognise the importance of your conference as workers because your 2009-2014 manifesto recognises workers power and the conditions of workers suitable for the current times," he said.

The fiery trade unionist observed that the BCP manifesto recognises, amongst others, collective bargaining and participation of workers in issues of governance in good faith.

Kekgonegile was elated that as workers, they are not going to simply talk unity, but they would like to be seen to be practising it. "In this regard, I want to announce to this meeting that BOFEPUSU has resolved to cooperate with the oldest federation in the country - Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) - in an endeavour to improve workers power," he told the hall that received the latest developments with a thunderous applause, ululations and whistling.

He indicated that he has been mandated to ensure that the leadership of the two federations work together and strike a common understanding.

Kekgonegile vowed that the suspended nationwide BOFEPUSU strike would continue because the public sector employees are yet to get what they wanted . "The two-month public sector strike has affected people differently.

Under normal circumstances, a strike never takes this long," he observed, "We have not signed anything with the government and mind you, we have not agreed to the three percent offered by the government."

He told the conference that with the government offer or not, the unions would resume the strike. He thanked the opposition politicians and some from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) for the role they played at what he called "our revolution assembly points".

"It was not easy," he conceded and added: "Friendships, families and relationships generally suffered many blows. Eight weeks of strike has taught us that workers' power without support from politicians would have yielded nothing."

He vowed that workers should never succumb to government pressure and become passive tools. "As workers, we have an agenda of change in this country and we will do everything possible to have our voice heard. Strikes will be a continuous thing and in future we are going to be more united," he added.

BOFEPUSU has taken a position never to work with the state media and Kekgonegile told the BCP conference: "We can't influence you on that one, as we know we will fend for ourselves."

Giving a solidarity message, BFTU Vice-President Dr Lebohang Letsie stated that debate should not be stifled, as it was good for enhancing internal democracy. She warned that when political party internal democracy was compromised, a party couldn't be trusted to deliver at national level.

She described BFTU as an umbrella body for 25 trade unions. She was adamant that the unfolding political developments are a clear sign that there is no room for laxity. As a trade unionist, she feels that political parties were not opportunistic in lending their hands during the recent eight weeks strike.

"What people ought to understand is that workers need politicians more than politicians need them in that politicians at various levels craft and debate laws that affect amongst others workers," she said.

"What was opportunistic about politicians (MPs) collaborating to defeat a motion seeking to classify some sectors of the public service as essential services? This is a clear example of a case where workers need the politicians," she said.

As a parting shot, Letsie wished BFTU and BOFEPUSU could unite, "so that our collective efforts could further unite the workers. It's our wish to see workers dealing with real issues bedevilling them as a collective and with one powerful voice".

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