BOFEPUSU’s neutral stance is democratic – Rari

While the powerful federation says it has not had the time to draft guiding principles for choosing whom to throw its weight behind, observers adopting a neutral stance could be a symptom of divisions in the leadership


FRANCISTOWN: The decision by the Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) to adopt a neutral stance on political alignment for the 2019 general elections has raised questions about whether the federation has failed its members or its mandate.

At its meeting last weekend, the Governing Council of BOFEPUSU resolved to adopt a neutral stance on political alignment for the 2019 general elections. It said the decision was the result of intense and robust debate by delegates that noted the absence of a guiding principle in the form of a workers’ manifesto at the federation.

This is a far cry from the last general elections in 2014 when BOFEPUSU aligned itself the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), the opposition coalition in whose formation the powerful federation of unions had participated. At that time the federation said its decision was taken after scrutinising the manifestos of all parties running in the elections. The UDC’s, it said, was outstanding for the interests of workers. BOFEPUSU had played a critical role in uniting several opposition parties in order to beat the ruling Botswana Democratic Party at the polls.

After the meeting of the governing council last weekend, the Secretary General of the federation, Tobokani Rari, went on radio to say BOFEPUSU had had ample time to scrutinise the manifestos of all parties in 2014. Further, he said, BOFEPUSU had a comprehensive workers’ manifesto that it used as a guiding tool regarding the choice of whom it chose to support. This time around, the federation has not had the time to draft such guiding principles.

Rari said adopting a neutral stance was still democratic. “This is the most liberal decision that allows individuals to demonstrate their rights,” he argued. “This is a compromise decision that has been arrived at (by) BOFEPUSU affiliates.”