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BOFEPUSU, BOPEU mend relations

23 February, 2015

Botswana Federation of Public Servants Union (BOFEPUSU) has averted the imminent departure of want away affiliate, Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) following the latter’s litany of displeasure with the mother union over the elections held over the past weekend.  

BOPEU’s acrimonious relationship with mother union, BOFEPUSU reached another level this past week with BOPEU withdrawing total participation in the recent national committee elections because of a number of complaints. BOPEU’s pulling out of the elections raised new fears that the freshly restored working relationship could go sour again as the two unions failed to reach an agreement on a number of key issues.

The BOFEPUSU conference held over the past weekend was hoped to bring the two unions together, with earlier efforts to reconcile them having failed. At the BOPEU convention last year December, the BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari told the delegates that their relationship with BOPEU had been mended and they were now focusing on moving forward. “We would like to apologise to BOFEPUSU and BOPEU members because we did the injustice by exchanging words in a public domain,” said Rari.

Despite the reconciliatory tone by Rari at BOFEPUSU’s convention last year, the conference held over this past weekend has proved that the two unions’ differences are far from over, with BOPEU showing little interest in continuing as an affiliate of BOFEPUSU. BOPEU leadership had at their own convention last year put on the table a suggestion to pull out of BOFEPUSU but the delegates saved the day as they disapproved the move.    

The current BOFEPUSU and BOPEU stand-off stems from the events leading up to the 2014 elections during which the two unions started engaging in a bitter exchange of words in the media following the decision by a majority of BOFEPUSU affiliates to endorse the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ahead of the general elections. BOPEU was of the view that although it was involved, particularly its president Andrew Motsamai in cajoling the opposition parties to form a united formation at the height of the 2011 public servants strike, the leadership was not given a mandate by its membership to endorse any political party.

Weekend Post has it on good authority that the newly elected BOFEPUSU Executive Committee met BOPEU leadership at the latter’s Central District Business (CBD) offices on Wednesday this week in yet another effort to restore the relationship and listen to the affiliate’s concern. However, it turns out that although the two had smoked the peace pipe, the following day (Thursday) BOFEPUSU held another meeting to prepare for the bargaining council negotiations, which members of BOPEU, being Masego Mogwera (past immediate BOFEPUSU president and Sikalesele Seitiso (BOPEU vice president) attended and participated in its proceedings.

It is understood that at the meeting, BOFEPUSU tried to soften up its affiliate with a policy of appeasement in which members of BOPEU would be co-opted in the remaining three positions which were uncontested at the conference held over the weekend. The uncontested positions were to be initially contested by members of BOPEU and remained vacant when they refused to participate in the elections. The positions are of Deputy President, Secretary for Youth, Sports and Culture, Secretary for Occupational health and were to be contested by Sikalesele Seitiso, Kebonyemeodisa Watota and Onkemetse Mokone respectively.

However, BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshwegwa said there was no need to panic in regard to BOPEU’s status as an affiliate of the BOFEPUSU because there were no fears that BOPEU would de-affiliate. “We have met with the BOPEU leadership and they are part of the team preparing for the bargaining council negotiations,” he said.

“After the handing over of the duties by the outgoing executive committee, the new members of the executive committee will meet and co-opt members to fill the three vacant positions,” Motshegwa added.

Motshegwa went on to deny that there was any agreement reached to only co-opt members of BOPEU into the vacant positions, saying any member form affiliate unions could be co-opted.  

BOFEPUSU is made up Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and National Amalgamated, Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU), Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and Manual Workers Union (MWU).