On behalf of the National Executive Committee and the entire membership of the Botswana Mine Workers Union it is with deepest regret, sadness and sorrow to learn of the passing of Cde Gabaoutlwelwe Bashi Matlhoame.
Cde Matlhoame was a founding member of Botswana Mine workers Union (BMWU). He was elected into the National Executive Committee of the Botswana Mine workers in 1972 as Deputy President (deputy National Chairperson by then) deputizing Mr Letlhogile Mollowakgotla. He held this position until 1974 when did not stand for elections.
He then stood for elections for the position of President in 1976 which he won. He held this position until 1985 when he left the mining industry. GB as he was affectionately called and popularly known led the Union during a very difficult time; a time when Unions even though legally registered were considered subversive. Employers at that time, were hostile, with little to no respect for labour laws and hardly any sanction from Government. It is critical to remember that in those days racial discrimination was rife. Black people then, were treated as second class citizens in their own country. Notwithstanding the difficulties, Cde Matlhaoame was very steadfast in in defending the workers’ rights. He orchestrated the Selebi-Phikwe mineworkers strike of 1976. This strike is what defined and shaped trade unionism as we know it today. The annals of trade union history will surely echo his name for eternity.
It must be noted that at the time, serving as a Union leader required selflessness and a spirit of voluntarism as there was no payment of any sort. By that time to serve as a Union leader, one had to sacrifice his/her time, time which could have been spent with family, their family resources and often than not their chances of promotion to say the least. Cde Motlhoame is one of those veterans who made all these sacrifices.
In 1981 he was elected President of Botswana Federation of Trade Union (BFTU). He ascended to the helm of the Federation and became the leader of all workers organized in trade unions of this country. BFTU operates at the nexus of Government, Business Botswana and International Labour Organizations on behalf of workers in Botswana. It also represents workers in tripartite committees like National Employment, Manpower and Income Council; Labour Advisory Board; Minimum Wage Board to mention but a few.
In 1980 Southern African governments formed the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), trade unions in response decided to form a parallel regional Trade Union Organization, the Southern African Trade Union Coordinating Council (SATUCC). Cde Motlhoame became its founding President and served diligently until 1985.
GB was a very dedicated and visionary leader of the Trade Union movement who gave a lot for the workers advancement. The fruits of his labour are still felt today and we will ensure that his sacrifices were not made in vain. You have done your part Cde.
MAY HIS SOUL REST IN ETERNAL PEACE.