Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), has not had poor numbers in its history, with membership consistently hovering around 9, 000 over the years.
To double that number and reach 18, 000 members is no small feat for the trade union in a sector where teachers countrywide number not more than 25, 000.
Long serving BOSETU secretary general, Tobokani Rari says the leadership stability, and predictability of climate at BOSETU for potential members and other stakeholders is the main reason behind the exponential growth of his union membership.
Rari, who has served three terms or nine years as secretary general of BOSETU, has no doubt been symbolic of the political stability and climate predictability he says are vital in attracting the sustainable growth that the union is riding on currently.
He says BOSETU also took a conscious decision to amend its constitution to be able to widen its recruitment drive to all workers in the teaching sector including non-teaching staff, as well as recruiting beyond government schools.
While today it boasts of an impressive 18, 000 membership, Rari says with the widened pool for recruitment of members, now the sky is the limit as to how far BOSETU could organically grow its membership, the challenge he says he relishes with renewed passion as he eyes his fourth term as secretary general at the union’s elective congress slated for month end.
Rari says the leadership stability and the climate of predictability are factors that have become items of unwritten culture in BOSETU, as the union has retained a large number of its leadership structures for an extended period over the years, resulting among others, in well organised and coordinated programmes driven by trusted and familiar faces, for the betterment of the union’s service delivery.
Rari, in particular was retained unopposed in his last three terms, as the membership nodded to his progressive style of driving the organisation’s vision.
This time though, Rari is being challenged by his long time deputy, in Innocent Mannathoko, for the seat; a development Rari perceives as exciting for the progress of their union. Some of the benefits and achievements for members that Rari ascribes to stability of tenure include the development and growth of BOSETU business wings which were established to sustain the union, as well as to cater for social and economic well being of members, a journey he says continues to be rewarding with every step.
The business entities include PEUBO, a low interest cash loan deliberately set up to subsidise members from high interest loans.
BOSETU Funeral Scheme, BOFUS, is seen as in a league of its own thanks to the dignified send-offs packages it delivers to its members and their loved ones at affordable pricing. Last year, BOSETU established a stand alone insurance brokerage which covers bank loans of members by negotiating reasonable insurance covers for such loans, thanks to a compromise deal struck with a local under-writer and a major banking partner.
Rari says while the brokerage ensured that BOSETU members pay negotiated insurance covers for their various bank facilities, the brokerage business proved to be a hit in its first year, as it netted over P16 million from commissions.
The cash loan wing, PEUBO, was also profitable in the last financial reporting, as it paid out handsomely to the union, which is a shareholder. Rari was around as a negotiator around 2010, when government migrated teachers from the Teaching Service Management (TSM) to join the Public Service Act as teachers now started working an eight hour day and bargained to be paid for any extra hours.Consequent to this negotiations on unraveling of the Levels of Operations in the teaching profession, progressions were done, resulting in upwards trajectory in the sector. Rari also spearheaded the establishment of a bargaining forum at the sub-sector level (Basic Education Ministry), a feat he says was only achieved by the education sector unions so far.
A holder of Master’s Degree in Industrial and Employment Relations, Rari’s substance goes beyond his union BOSETU. His negotiation skills have come in handy for the public sector trade union federation, Botswana Federation of Public Private Parastatals Unions (BOFEPUSU), where he has served as the dependable secretary general with distinction since 2011, the year famous for the mother of all strikes as the BOFEPUSU defied the odds and took Ian Khama’s administration by the horn by staging the longest and highly charged demonstrations against government, as public workers decried poor wages.
At the Botswana Public Officers Pension Funds (BPOPF) where he represents the interests of BOSETU members, Rari has been consistently entrusted with responsibilities such as chair of investments committee, which oversees investments of the over P60 billion BPOPF assets across various markets locally and in the world. BPOPF would later entrust him with the responsibility of chairperson, Mascom, to represent its investments interests, and by extension, public officers’ pensions interests. Rari says there is a lot to be done for BOSETU membership and Batswana. He says as he eyes another term, the excitement for him is to meaningfully participate in the contributions towards constitutional review process promised by President Mokgweetsi Masisi. Rari says unions like Bosetu, Bofepusu and BFTU will work hard to ensure that a desirable constitutional review is attained for Botswana.
Rari does not regret the confrontational nature that Bosetu had been engaging government on issues of covid19 spread in Botswana schools.
In fact he says Bosetu’s highly charged statements exposing government’s poor handling of the covid19 situations in schools have gone a long way in keeping the authorities on their toes to ensure that the scourge is not allowed to spread due to the laxity and dropping of the ball that seem to have been the order of the day.