- Says the support was only short term
- We were only using bye-elections as a weapon to fight the government- BMWU
FRANCISTOWN: Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) has reversed its decision to support the opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Party (UDC) due to the fragmentation and internal fights bedevilling the party.
BMWU took the decision to work against the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year and promised to support the UDC at the general elections as a protest against the challenges its members faced as a result of the closure of BCL. The union has now reversed its decision due to the current impasse within the coalition. Over the last month, the UDC which is made up of four opposition parties Botswana People’s Party (BPP), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Botswana National Front (BNF) as well as Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has faced internal challenges.
According BMWU since the removal of central figures from BMD and the taking over of the leadership of the party by Advocate Sidney Pilane that led to the formation of the Alliance of Progressives, UDC has been embroiled in a power struggle amid claims that the BCP was not procedural incorporated under the umbrella. BPP and BMD have been leading the pack in questioning BCP’s membership. BCP’s membership into the umbrella has since been confirmed by the political umbrella’s leadership. A fortnight ago, one of the Umbrella’s contracting partners, the BMD was suspended from the opposition coalition deepening the union’s concerns.
Prior to the closure of the BCL, BMWU supported UDC in all the bye-elections, a position they said was prompted by government’s failure to address their general concerns at the BCL mine. Before BCL’s closure BMWU has been at loggerheads with government over its concerns on members’ welfare and security at the mine. The union engaged government several times and held demonstrations in an effort to put pressure on government to address their concerns.
Upon the realisation that government failed to address their concerns, BMWU resolved to lend their support to the UDC in protest and show their displeasure towards government policies.
BMWU Secretary General Mbiganyi Ramokate revealed to The Botswana Gazette in an interview that their support for the UDC has now stopped though he declined to attribute the end of the relationship to the latter’s internal impasse. Ramokate dismissed claims that they dumped UDC due to the umbrella’s ongoing internal fighting’s but pointed out that the decision to support the opposition was short term and was only used as a tool to fight the government which was not willing to sit at the table with them and discuss issues surrounding the mine.
Ramokate said the withdrawal of their support has nothing to do with the internal issues of UDC. “It has to be noted that our support for the UDC was only for short term because we wanted to put pressure on government. Also by supporting UDC and addressing their rallies we were only trying to protest. When we took a decision to support UDC in the bye-elections we were only trying to protest against the government which was not willing to address our concerns at the mine. But for now the support has stopped because the decision was not taken at the council level. It is difficult to take this kind of decision because our members are also affiliated to different political parties so if there is need to continue supporting UDC in the coming elections will have to go and consult our members. But if there is a bye-elections it is the mandate of the National Executive Committee (NEC) to decide,” Ramokate said in an interview.
Further Ramokate attributed their decision to stop their direct support for the opposition umbrella due to a recent meeting with the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Eric Molale. “We managed to meet the Minster after being appointed to the ministry and submitted all our concerns. The Minister did not respond to us because he said he was still familiarising himself with the ministry, but we are hoping that he will revert to us with a positive response,” noted Ramokate.
While Molale could not be reached for comment, as his phone was unreachable, UDC Spokesperson Moeti Mhwasa was surprised to learn about the alleged withdrawal of BMWU’s support stating that they are not aware of a resolution taken by the latter to support them. “What I know is that BMWU never supported us, but they only requested for a platform where they could speak on what was happening at BCL. But as UDC we are not aware of any resolution that they took concerning our support. BOFEPUSU is the only union that took resolution to support us,” Mhwasa explained when reached for comment.