FRANCISTOWN: The much awaited Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) 13th triennial congress failed to bear any fruits and turned chaotic due to discrepancies realized by affiliates during the presentation of its financial report.
In its third day, where the delegates were suppose to elect a new executive committee and come up with resolutions, sources say the congress went through a rough spell as some of the affiliates lead by Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) and Botswana Private Medical and Health Services Workers Union (BPMHSWU) protested the presented financial report, demanding the leadership to call auditors to explain the discrepancies. The sources claim that the latter demanded clarity on P349 000.00 which appeared in the report under receivables. The protestors argued that there is no way the said amount could be deposited in BFTU accounts while the depositor was unknown.
Though BFTU Acting President Ohitlhetswe Lentswe tried to convince them to adopt the report, the dissenting unions pushed the issue of the financial discrepancies. What emerged was a power struggle between BMWU and other affiliates over the issue.
Some frustrated delegates charged that BMWU uses numbers to bulldoze other affiliates. “In 2010 BFTU split because of this mentality of using numbers. During that time we lost teachers to BOFEPUSU because they want everything to be done in their favour just because they have large numbers. If other unions want to use their memberships to oppress other affiliates they should be given freedom to quit because this compromises the democracy of the union,” charged one of the delegates.
Fuming delegates later recommended that the executive board members recuse themselves, alleging that they might be involved in the irregularities. In response, the executive resolved to cancel the congress to a date to be announced as there was no progress in the proceedings.
BFTU Secretary General Gadzani Mhotsha claimed that the congress failed to materialize because of outstanding issues that were supposed to be the mandate of the old committee. “We did not elect the new committee because the leadership resolved that it will be inappropriate to elect when there are lot of outstanding issues. So we want to give this old committee time to clear all pending issues before we call another congress next year,” he explained.
While most of the delegates accused BMWU of oppressing other affiliates Mhotsha argued that the differences between them should be viewed as healthy debate and not as excuse to quit the union. “Our members should understand that congresses are forums of debate where there will always be a winner and a loser,” said the BFTU Secretary General , adding that the case of large membership cannot influence any affiliate to quit the mother union.