This paper seeks to critically discuss whether or not trade unions should participate in political affairs or otherwise “party politics” in Botswana in light of the statement and remarks echoed by Seretse Khama in a journal titled, “ Trade Unions in Botswana”. It will first attempt to define what politics is as well as trade unions? The discussion shall then critically discuss the arguments as to whether trade unions should be allowed to participate in the political affairs of Botswana raised in the Sir Seretse Khama article referred to above. It shall also take into consideration the current situation in Botswana and compare the situation with neighboring countries, with emphasis on the South African position. The paper will then conclude by stating whether or not trade unions should be affiliated with political parties.
For purposes of this discussion, politics is deemed to mean activities associated with government of the country . However, this definition does not provide a satisfactory definition of what political activities mean. For the purposes of this discussion political activities will be deemed to mean activities related to the economic, social and legal matters relating to the development of a country. According to section 2 of the trade union and employers’ organization Act, a trade union “means an organization the principal objects of which include the regulation of relations between employees and employers or employers’ organization and between employers and employees” .
Free trade unions are an essential instrument of participatory democracy.
A trade union is deemed to be free as opposed to restricted when it’s not affiliated to any political party but is rather a neutral body. In such a state it is not under the control of any political party nor does it owe any political party any duty of loyalty and accountability.
Trade unions are regarded as the voice of its members. In that it advocates and negotiate for better working conditions as well as the general welfare of its members with the employer as per section 48 (4) of the Trade Union Employers Organization Act . Trade unions as parties to the bargaining council acts with instructions from its members to collectively bargain on their behalf. The union thus owes a duty of care to its members and is obliged to act in their best interests, toward their mandate as well as the given instructions. Participation of unions in politics has possibility to overrides the mandate of the day and may gives rise to divide attention with regards to its member’s grievances and or needs. As such this may limit and or interfere with the union’s role as a spokesperson for its members, thus eliminating the aspect of participatory democracy as the unions are tied in the territory of politics.
Nonetheless unions in themselves are political in nature. That is to say unions by their virtue carry an inevitable amount of politics. For example the fight of better working conditions and salary...