Labour union leader Johnson Motshwarakgole has urged 40,000-plus trade union members on Monday to not vote for the opposition bloc at next month's General Election, as he says the coalition's pledges are unattainable and uninspiring.
Manual Workers Union’s Motshwarakgole took aim at the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) shooting down its election pledges, while addressing members at the Mahalapye Community Hall for the opening of this week's leg of the Manual Workers Roadshow. Motshwarakgole said some of UDC’s pledges for this year’s election were unrealistic, citing one among others, that aims to eradicate the land allocation waiting list in three months, as an example of a desperate tactic that the workers should reject.
Motshwarakgole also warned the opposition that they will not be treated with kid gloves for this year's General Election and promised that this year's MPs' hit list to be released by the Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) will also aim for certain candidates in the opposition camp, unlike in the past when it targeted just the ruling party ones.
“We hear that BOFEPUSU will be sitting down to draw a hit list like it is tradition. We welcome that and have asked that when that list is drawn, us, at (Botswana) Manual Workers (Union), should be consulted, as we wish to add certain candidates on that list. It should target both the ruling and the opposition MP candidates, in our view," Motshwarakgole said to thunderous approval from his audience.
He reminded the gathering that in 2014 when a hit list for MPs was drawn up, some within the trade union vied for his blood relative, Daniel Kwelagobe, just to humiliate him (Motshwarakgole).
“But I didn't protest, I said, put it up there, but later I requested for permission to be allowed to break the news to him, being my elder brother, which I was granted.”
The Manual Workers Union CEO also reminded members of the last 10 years under former president Ian Khama, which were characterised by constant clashes with the labour movement and the worst relations ever between the two parties, as labour laws were violated with impunity, with workers going without increases for years, recruitment for new posts frozen for ten years, amongst others.
Motshwarakgole paid tribute to President Mokgweetsi Masisi's administration saying since he took over, the labour movement has enjoyed sitting at the table with the government to discuss workers’ rights in an honest manner for the first time, as shown by achievements of salary increment negotiations, as well as the recently concluded conditions of service negotiations, while deliberate effort to get the bargaining council back on its feet have began.
Motshwarakgole further hailed the recently concluded conditions of service talks, also known as PEMANDU, saying the poorest of the poor in the public service came out winners as in the end government acceded to raising the minimum wage to P2,500, a development he hailed as far much better than the ‘ntlole’ option advocated for by the rest of the trade unions during the negotiations.
Motshwarakgole argued that ‘ntlole’ would have disadvantaged the lowly paid as it would have resulted in a minimum wage of P1,800 and not the P2,500 as ultimately achieved.
“Now that we have successfully raised the minimum wage to P2,500, we are in a better shape now to accommodate ‘ntlole’.
Motshwarakgole also said there is hope for the first time that the lowly paid in the public service will start to enjoy pensions saying they have asked government to investigate how much the workers will need to be paid in a month to qualify for proper pension, something he said was being vigorously acted upon.