“The past immediate elections for the Federation office bearers were a circus.” Dibotlhale
In April, Othusitse Radipex Dibotlhale lost by 12 votes to Maruatona Botshelo for Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (Bosetu)’s vice Secretary General position. This loss did not sit well with the visionary leader who felt cheated. The Voice Staffer, DANIEL CHIDA speaks to the man who has been calling for protests against the federation of unions, BOFEPUSU
TEXT BREAK: “When people stay for too long in the same positions, especially influential and well remunerated positions, they tend to become too comfortable and slowly turn the institutions into their private property”
Take us a bit back to how you became a unionist?
I started union politics immediately after joining the Public Service in 1998 as a Botswana Teachers Union member.
In 2010 Botswana Secondary Schools Trade Union (BOSETU) held a Special Congress in Goodhope to decide on opening up membership to other sectors.
My long-time friends Raymond Malinga and Kopano Dioka invited me to the Congress, and I was even given the floor to address the congress.
The Congress also proposed three new names for the union and finally the name Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) was adopted.
I enjoyed the union in 2012 and immediately served as a member of the Publicity Committee.
In 2014 I was elected the inaugural Secretary for Pre-Primary & Primary Sector position, I successfully defended in 2017.
After serving for two terms, I made it clear that I would not be standing for elections again as I strongly believe that elected leaders must serve two terms and give others a chance.
If one wants to continue to serve, it must be in a different capacity. Some comrades from my sector felt I was leaving too soon and persuaded me to reconsider my decision.
Share how you lost the past elections?
We knew what we were up against and events leading to the elections were exactly as we expected them to be, especially the last seven days.
The propaganda machinery started to manufacture a story after story about our team, Team Restoration.
The highlight of their masterpiece was when they accused our faction of being sponsored by the BDP.
I was personally associated with the BDP and in their wild and fertile imagination they said I was hired to deliver Bosetu to the BDP probably due to my friendship with Malinga.
We had a well packaged manifesto, at least we thought so.
What did you want to do?
We wanted to have a database for all companies owned by teachers and give them business where possible, develop a Lifestyle Audit and Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Policies for the union leadership, take action against those who were involved in the ZHE business transaction without authority, Re-visit the Forensic Audit Report to find out if it has not left out some vital components.
We didn’t lose but our members lost an opportunity to feel the real definition of selflessness.
What are your future plans in unionism?
What people don’t know is that I had already told my committee in our second meeting after the 2017 Elections that I will not be standing.
I think I must give others a chance to bring in new ideas, so I am done with active union politics.
I will not be standing for any position in the next elections.
By the way I am turning 50 in two years’ time so I must focus on my private life.
Why are Unions always rocked by issues of maladmistration?
It happens in every organisation or institution. That is one of the reasons why the government came up with a Transfer Policy.
When people stay for too long in the same positions, especially influential and well remunerated positions, they tend to become too comfortable and slowly turn the institutions into their private property.
They build their power by surrounding themselves with people who are ready to die for them.
These are the people who are ready to take bullets and are usually rewarded with nomination to some committees or given financial assistance against union policies.
Anyone who raises a red flag would be met with an avalanche of insults and name-calling.
In most cases, this powerful individual never responds to any question from the people they represent.
There are people on stand-by who are shamelessly ready to respond on their behalf. Once this happens, maladministration is inevitable.
One other thing is lack of succession plan. I mean a well-documented plan, not where friends want to succeed each other so that they can continue looting and cover each other’s back.
WHAT DO YOU THINK LACKS TODAY IN UNION LEADERSHIP?
We need the likes of Justin Hunyepa, Eric Ditau ,Kwenasebele Modukanele, Richard Boitshwarelo, Baboloki Tlale and Tebogo Sebogodi back.
These are some of the selfless people who sacrificed their personal resources building this union from nothing.
Those who came after them also played their role and left the stage while the audience was still shouting for more.
Today unions have multi-million pula worth of assets and the eyes have conveniently moved from the ball.
That is why there are a number of cases before the courts, the union leadership is fighting amongst themselves.
Other unions are sitting on ticking time bombs as well and sooner or later they are going to detonate.
YOU HAVE BEEN ADVOCATING FOR PROTESTS AGAINST BOFEPPPUSU,WHY?
The past immediate elections for the Federation office bearers were a circus.
A group of friends fixed the elections and made sure that no one from outside their circle was nominated or seconded.
Section10.1 of the Federation says, “Affiliates, including affiliates that are being oriented by the Federation are autonomous bodies governed by their own constitutions.’’
This is not just a lazy provision as it affords individual trade unions to use their constitutions to make decisions for ratification or endorsement by the Federation.
When it comes to nominations for office bearers, the constitution lacks precision on the process and some trade unions for reasons best known to them used the loophole to nominate some office bearers from other unions even though those unions had used their constitutions to nominate their own employees.
This is one of the reasons why BTU boycotted the elections. I think it should be made mandatory for trade unions and federations to be subjected to periodic External Forensic Audit carried out by the Regulator.
DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH FOLLOWERS TO MAKE THE PROTEST WORK OR IT IS JUST ONE OF THOSE?
Yes, the numbers are there to make the protest work. It is just a question of when!