November 10, 2005

Union leaders bitter over president’s speech

Labour movement has criticised the comments directed at the trade union leadership by President Festus Mogae in his state-of-the-nation address. Mogae referred to some trade union leaders as “self-proclaimed champions of workers’ rights who sometimes deliberately mislead workers and provoke industrial strife.” In response, the labour union said Mogae’s comments were unfortunate and clearly showed that he was siding with employers, an issue that could send the wrong signal to employers who have no interest in addressing employee grievances.
“He (Mogae) is antagonising the unions and the sad part is that it is coming from the President,” quipped Jack Tlhagale, general secretary of the Botswana Mining Workers’ Union (BMWU). He argued that Mogae was setting up a climate where employers could bank on his support and would be least bothered about employees whenever they complained of unfair industrial relations. “Our president is being judgemental,” argued Tebogo Makgale, secretary general of Botswana Federation of Trade Unions. He said while Botswana has a long history of good industrial relations, “our position is that it should not come at the expense of workers”. Makgale blamed Mogae for taking the side of capital yet quite often some employers flout international labour conventions to which Botswana is a signatory and the government is not bothered.
Mogae’s spokesperson, Jeff Ramsay, disagreed: “I don’t think the President was unfair to the unions. Each of those paragraphs (in the speech) should be taken as a package. The law protects both parties and the President noted incidents but he was not pointing to the whole labour movement.” He further argued that even the statement on “self-proclaimed champions” should not be read in isolation but should be balanced with the rest of the statement.
In the meantime, Botswana Minerals and Energy Minister Charles Tibone has highlighted the importance of the government’s enabling role to allowing the private sector to explore, and emphasises the need for government–private mining partnerships in Africa. He stressed the importance to the development of Africa’s resource base of financial markets that are able to provide both equity and debt capital to fund exploration and mine development. (Mmegi, The Reorter/Gabarone, The Mining Weekly, South Africa)

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