Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) will today (Tuesday) hold its congress where President Ian Khama is expected to officiate while members of opposition parties will not be present as they were not invited. A source has told this publication that upon accepting the invitation, Khama directed the union not to invite opposition parties or he will not attend.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa said he was aware of the congress and that they were not invited. “I do not know why we were not invited, but we respect their arrangement, they can decide who they want,” he said.
Mohwasa said it would be very unfortunate if indeed the union would allow an outsider to dictate terms to them as they are supposed to be independent and make their own decisions. Mohwasa also said the President would be undermining the unions and such is unacceptable.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Publicity Secretary Taolo Lucas said they were not invited to the congress but respects the decision as they have a right to invite whoever they want to invite. “They have a right to invite who they want, I will not comment on whether the President instructed them not to invite us or not as I do not have those facts,” he said
BOPEU Publicity Secretary Emma Tlale dismissed the talk stating that they decided not to invite political parties like they did in the past two years. “We want to stay as far as possible from partisan politics, so we decided we are not inviting political parties but rather the state President whom our members also have long asked us to invite,” he said.
Tlale further dismissed reports that the President had demanded the absence of opposition parties at the event saying they wrote an invitation to the President in his capacity as the head of government and not leader of the Botswana Democratic Party. Despite Tlale insisting that they invited the President as per the demands of their members, The Botswana Gazette has established that there were members who were against Khama as a keynote speaker at their event. “It is a betrayal of the struggle. Khama has shown contempt and disdain for the labour movement in Botswana, what do we need from him really?” the disgruntled committee member asked.
BOPEU has not been on good terms with it its fellow Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) members. They had a fall out over endorsement of political parties in the run up to the general elections and BOPEU suspended its monthly subscriptions to the federation. They also divested UNIGEM-a company owned by BOFEPUSU collectively saying it does not make business sense. BOPEU is expected to make a decision on whether to continue as members of BOFEPUSU at this convention. At the time of going to print the resolution had not been made public but it is understood that the anti BOFEPUSU lobby stood a chance of pushing through the resolution as the pro BOFEPUSU lobby was not organised enough to put up a strong challenge. They were said to have built momentum in the run up to the convention allegedly with the assistance of some BOFEPUSU leaders.