Botswana nurses protest against workplace rape

By Staff Reporter

Botswana Public Employees Union says the southern African nation, usually heralded as a stable economy, has from a working class perspective, recorded deteriorating levels of democracy over the last 10 years.

And BOPEU said recent incidents where a nurse was raped at her workplace in Gaborone and the dismissal of Westgate Mall Choppies Superstore for merely demanding better salaries and conditions of service show that workers’ lives are in danger.

BOPEU Rotlhe Region chairperson Booster Hushai Mogapi, said during Labour Day celebrations in Molepolole recently that every May 1 was an opportunity for the working class to close ranks and wage a struggle against the exploitative economic system around the world.

“Today, we meet at a time when the strength of the workers and the popularity of unions is on the rise. Comrades, we are gathered here not as just friends partying, but as comrades in the struggle for our emancipation,” Mogapi said. “May Day is an opportunity for the working class to close ranks and wage a struggle against the exploitative economic system around the world. It is the day we celebrate the gains of our labour movements. These gains need not only be celebrated but to be defended and protected.”

He said when workers organised through a trade union they accorded themselves ‘a voice on the job’.

“Our theme: ‘Resilience amidst regressive Labour Laws and Decent Work Deficits’ speaks volumes about the deterioration of democracy we (Botswana) experienced for the past 10 years. We saw the reversal of many gains of the workers which were fought for by Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU),” Mogapi said. “Such gains are the Right to Strike, the Right to Collective Bargaining just to name a few. We saw the erosion of the purchasing power of the workers and workers became poor and poorer. This theme communicates to us to rise and unite to fight for the reinstatement of all these gains.”

And Mogapi described the incident in which a Gaborone nurse was raped whilst on duty as disheartening and a situation that brought into question the issue of occupational and health safety for employees.

“A nurse was raped at her workplace, workers were dismissed at Westgate Mall, Choppies Superstore for merely voicing out their grievances. The rape incident exposed the negligence of the employer on issues of security, occupational health and safety. Such a devastating incident undermined the dignity of that nurse, it dehumanised and humiliated her,” Mogapi observed further. “I commend BONU for taking a responsive measure to protest and petition the Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Madigele to address this issue and ensure that safety of workers is guaranteed at workplaces. Where safety and security is compromised, the lives of the workers are in danger.”

On the dismissal of Choppies workers, who were on strike for better salaries and conditions of service, he said the action by the South African employer could not be celebrated.

“ It’s a war to the workers which needs to be fought. It shows the weakness we have in our labour statutes. We need to fight for every worker to be protected and enjoy the right to strike,” said Mogapi. “Comrades, we are confronted by the government and private employers’ regressive laws and corruption which deprives us of our fair share of the wealth that we create in the economy. It is reported that the workers only have a share of around 10 per cent from the GDP of the country while the rest is enjoyed by the few. It is an anomaly that needs a united workforce to challenge, for the social economic structural transformation, for equal distribution of the wealth.”

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