Trade unions set political support conditions


Come the 2024 General Election, political parties should not expect to be given support by trade unions on a silver platter just because they can. Instead, the position of one of the country’s strongest federation of trade unions is that those eyeing their votes should earn them. Mmegi Staffer RYDER GABATHUSE follows the story

With an estimated membership of affiliates standing at around 100,000, the Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has adopted a principle it strongly feels for whichever party or individual is targeting their votes in the 2024 General Election should subscribe to. But first, BOFEPUSU secretary-general Tobokani Rari explains that in the 2019 General Election, BOFEPUSU left to the general membership to exercise their minds and see what suits them in terms of who and how they voted. “In 2020, the federation engaged in an exercise that culminated in the production of a workers’ charter or a workers manifesto if you like, that guides the collective position of the federation in so far as the decision to vote is concerned,” militant trade unionist, Rari explained to Mmegi this week in an interview. Starting in June, the BOFEPUSU leadership has planned to distribute copies of the workers’ charter to all its stakeholders. The charter was duly unveiled in 2020. At some stage, the federation would host a symposium speaking to the workers’ charter and address all those that have an interest in the 2024 General Election including political parties, individuals, civic organisations, and non-political actors. Rari says the workers’ charter contains the views of workers on various pertinent issues. He emphasises that like-minded organisations in their context will be those whose manifestos speak clearly without ambiguity about the issues of the workers. “We would then later determine after duly assessing our potential like-minded partners through their manifestos and others. This time around, we don’t want the social actors to tell us about themselves but they would hear from us,” he said, indicating that they will be dictating terms rather than the other way round.

Thus far, Rari is adamant that no party has approached them suggesting any form of relationship in the 2024 General Election. If any party would approach them, they will cross the bridge when they get to it. After the 2019 General Election, BOFEPUSU has been monitoring the situation and one of the yardsticks for a like-minded political organisation would be how such a political party or individual has been working with the federation on various issues of interest. Against a strong view that BOFEPUSU affiliates have a possible leaning towards opposition parties, Rari dismisses that school of thought to be devoid of substance describing it as a figment of peoples’ imaginations.

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