FIRST 2017 General Council Meeting A Triple Success
The first 2017 General Council meeting of Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) was held in Mahalapye over the weekend.
The General Council is a constitutionally sanctioned structure of the federation that has to meet at least twice a year, for reports, dialogue and so forth. Part-rule 11.1 of the BFTU constitution says the duty of the General Council is to, “Transact the business of the Federation between Triennial Congresses and shall coordinate the activities…”
About fifty General Council members were in attendance. Members of the General Council are: The Executive Board, Chairpersons and General Secretaries of affiliated unions or their representatives, Chairperson and General Secretaries of Women’s Council and Regional Committees. This interpretation is per rule 10.4 to10.4.3 of the BFTU constitution.
The meeting began on the 22nd of February 2017 which was a Thursday. That entire day was dedicated towards developing a strategy for organizing workers in vulnerable situation. The strategy is a five a year strategy which will be supported by the ILO, Pretoria Office.
The development of the strategy was guided by an independent consultant engaged by the ILO for the project. The strategy seeks to target workers such as migrant workers, domestic workers, and farm workers. Despite the proceedings being somewhat technical the aim was achieved by the end of the day. Making the first day a success.
The second day-Friday 23rd February 2017-was dedicated towards going through a draft constitution that BFTU seeks to adopt. The new constitution was studied through the guidance of a consultant, lawyer and former trade unionist and General Council member for Botswana Meat Industries Workers Union (BMIWU) Mr Daniel Pelompe.
The draft constitution has been reviewed by an expert who made comments that were shared with the General Council. Many comments of the expert were that the constitution is progressive. The final and supreme structure of the federation which is the Delegates Congress will be presented with the constitution for adoption and thereafter the constitution will be implemented, if adopted. Just like the strategy, the draft constitution was adopted by the end of the day.
The third and final day- Saturday 24th February 2017- was the day the Executive Board, particularly principal officers-which are the President, Secretary General and Treasurer-made gave reports for the period March 2016 to beginning of 2017.
Two ladies were co-opted for the positions of Vice President of BFTU and Secretary for International Relations and Publicity, the positions were filled by Sarah Dibe and Idah Nkhumisang respectively. The third day was arguably a success also.
During the General Council, the President of the federation cautioned General Councilors of the storm that lies on the course of workers. He gave examples of retrenchment that have become the order the day, the punitive labour laws that the government enacts with blatant disregard for advice provided by the federation. The president however urged workers never to tire, but to come together and gather strength from each other to fight the oppression.
The Number of Women in Federation’s Board Rise to Almost Half
Women have historically been at a disadvantage when in terms of filling of positions of power. However, BFTU has shown that it is ahead in reversing that trend.
At the recent General Council of BFTU two powerful women rose to fill in two positions that had fallen vacant in the federation’s Executive Board. The positions are that of the Vice President-filled by Sarah Dibe-and that of Secretary for Publicity and International Relations- filled byIdah Nkhumisang.
Mrs Dibe has been the Secretary for Women’s Committee prior to her ascendance to the Vice President position by cooption, whereas Ms Nkhumisang is President of the University of Botswana Non Academic Staff Union (UBNNASU).
The total number of women in the Executive Board will now be five in a total of twelve Board members. This is a remarkable number looking at the fact that the Executive Board is drawn from the General Council which in terms of percentages has less than fifteen percent women at the moment. What is also impressive is that the positions were open for contest by any General Council member and were in no way reserved for women.
The President of BOPEU Ms Masego Mogwera whose own ascendance to the presidency of BOPEU was symbolic as a woman, was present to give a word of encouragement to the coopted board members. She encouraged them to work hard and make their presence felt in the Executive Board.
The Executive Board is now comprised of comrade(s): Bohithetswe Lentswe (President), Sarah Dibe (Vice President), Gadzani Mhotsha (Secretary General), Thusang Butale (Assistant Secretary General), Thatayaone Tauyakgale (Treasurer), Elliot Modise (Secretary for Organizing), Mpho Keatshabe (Secretary for Education and Research), Idah Nkhumisang (Secretary for Publicity and International Relations), Gaebepe Molaodi (Secretary for Youth and Children’s Issues) Goitseone Sebego (Chairperson for Women’s Committee).
The position of Secretary for Women’s Council fell vacant with the ascendance of Mrs Dibe to the Vice Presidency. The position will be filled by a member of the Women’s Committee by or before the next Executive Board meeting. The Women’s Committee was given kudos at the General Council for their perseverance in the midst of challenges. The Chairperson for the Women’s Committee even pleaded for support during the upcoming events of the Women’s Committee which are a High Tea and a donation to Mahalapye women’s prison.