Address by COSATU President, Zingiswa Losi to the Botswana Public Employees Union’s Central Executive Committee in Palapye on the 5th of December 2023 

Theme: Strengthening Union Capacity towards Decent work and Just transition

Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi

Cde Masego Mogwera, President of BOPEU

Members of the National Executive Committee of BOPEU

ITUC Africa President, Martha Molema

Executive Secretary of SATUCC, Mavis Kgookotsise

Fraternal Organisations and invited Guests

Esteemed delegates and comrades

Please allow me on behalf of the National Office Bearers (NOBs) of COSATU, to extend our sincere gratitude to the leadership of BOPEU for the kind invitation to COSATU, to participate and share our views on this important subject matter for this esteemed gathering.

The theme of this gathering is testimony to the times of uncertainty about the future of decent work, the real meaning of a Just transition and the imperative of building resilient societies, in which workers and the poor are always central to the conscience of society.

According to the Brookings Institution of the US, “27% of the world’s poorest countries are in Sub Sahara Africa”. Further, 1 in 3 Africans live below the global poverty line, while 70% of the world’s poorest people live in Africa”. This is the heart of the matter.

Is this by design, by default, an accident of history, a curse, a deliberate result of whatever set of circumstances or just figures. The danger with academic economists they read this as figures and move on. We as trade unionists, should interpret the underlying factors and explanations.

Dear Cde President Masisi, we are grateful that you are part of this important gathering, because our destiny is tied to each other as Africans and as human beings in this part of the world, the most underdeveloped.

The resilience of the Botswana trade union movement has made it amongst the key pillars of the movement in our region. It is no accident that you have produced so many leaders that have now occupied so many strategic positions on our continent and beyond. We take this opportunity to congratulate Cde Martha Molema, our dear sister and comrade, even as we also convey our most sincere condolences during this time of her sad family loss.

Being the headquarters of the regional trade union movement places greater responsibility on your shoulders comrades. The current state of the regional trade union movement is our deeply shared concern and requires that we are honest in confronting the many obstacles we together face.

Throughout the whole Southern African region, workers are facing unending job losses, deepening levels of poverty and hunger, extreme inequalities, depressingly low incomes, energy and electricity crisis, poor skills and fast changing labour markets, weak social dialogue institutions and collective bargaining systems, etc.

In all of these, your theme still ask the right question about union capacity. It is the collective power and struggle of workers that will change the situation around, it is the only hope for the millions of workers who are facing the most hopeless and subjugating conditions of life.

There are 3 main features and fundamentals necessary to advance a sustained and effective workers programme and build a trade union with the requisite capacity and infrastructure. These are;

  1. A Clear programme to mobilise and organise workers around their most pressing issues and inspire them to unite in action – Clear outline of a Programme of actionThis one does not arise from our heads and views, but from the mandate we get on the ground from workers and their structures in workplaces, in institutions and wherever they are.
  1. Organisational Capacity and durable infrastructure – this should be the capacity to coordinate all work, systems, programmes, institutions and levels of union work into a seamless and cohesive machinery that delivers for workers. This includes education, research, policy development, gender and women leadership building, health and safety capacity and ground organisation and operational structures for lasting impact.
  1. Sustainable Funding and Development Model – No organisation or institution can ever be sustainable without sufficient resources, in human, financial and material terms. These are the means to take the vision to the ground, to make our aims real and to ensure we meet our objectives. But the resources we need require maximum creativity in deploying, using, protecting and allocating efficiently, because they are scarce. The means to raise and build a bigger base of our resource pool require that we work together in identifying key sectors of the economy that we can invest in for  generation of a bigger pool of returns on investment. This is beyond just reliance on subscriptions and survivalist incomes.

But, we must not lose aim of what a trade union is about comrades. It is about maximum returns for members. It is about workers getting better services, having their rights defended and making their workplaces more rewarding and beneficial for them and their families. In this way, workers can become more productive and focussed on delivering the required services for communities and society in general. This is why, workers should get the satisfaction of paying their dues, as they also get the satisfaction of quality service, no compromise on that. It’s a tit-for-tat.

We are living at a time when so many major changes are underway in the world. We have just returned from the ITUC Africa in Kenya, where a number of important issues were discussed and certainly, our regional situation require same, if not more attention towards a detailed breakdown of what are the key pressing issues workers are facing. We know that some of our countries are lagging behind in ratifying and even more, in implementing ILO Conventions and progressive labour market standards in general. This is what the essence of Decent work is about. Towards that end, only our united power, sustained campaigning and development of policy alternatives, will make us impactful.

Further, the critical issue of Just transition, which is a global game changer, requires that we understand that the environment has been destroyed by the ruthless search for profitability margins by capital. Towards that end, we have pursued environmentally destructive paths of development, particularly, the developed world. Therefore, there must be a deliberate change of course towards environmentally friendly and just means of relating to the environment and the generation of energy for development. Development is an imperative we cant compromise on and need for human survival. But the path of development must be friendly and sustainable to the environment.

Further, the issue of a Just transition means workers should not bear the costs of transitioning from current to future energy paths. Jobs, livelihoods and skills are important to the package which should form part of the transition to ensure minimum disruptions in the quality of life and society in general.


We wish to end by saying that its important for the trade union movement to do all it can to build and promote unity. Workers need unity for more gains in their struggles and that requires us as leaders to reach out a hand of solidarity, cooperation and shared commitments in pursuit of social justice, decent work and a better future for our continent and its people.

With these few words we wish the CEC of BOPEU successful deliberations and look forward to working together on taking forward the outcomes.