The ghost of deposed Executive Chairman of Babereki Investment and former Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) president, Andrew Motsamai, refuses to loosen its grip on the embattled trade union, or just fade into oblivion.
As trouble besieging ‘the union of choice’ deteriorated to an all time low, candidates often linked to Motsamai, who were persecuted by the returning President, Masego Mogwera, surprised many by dominating elections for national office bearers’ positions, held in Kasane on Wednesday. Motsamai’s hand was at play feeding Mogwera the bitter taste of her own medicine. As they say, karma is a beach! And Mogwera is having it in bucket loads. Although she managed to cling to the Presidency, she will not have any powers to exercise any authority because all other office bearers positions have been scooped by her opponents at the tri-annual elective national general congress. It is a given that from now on national executive (board) decisions will become a game of numbers, and it remains only a matter of time to see if Mogwera will stand the heat.
Last year, in September 2017, Mogwera had unceremoniously dismissed Motsamai after accusing him of embezzling funds amounting to over P40 million belonging to the union investment arm, Babereki. Mogwera went further and reported some suspicious transactions to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) as well as launch a plethora of lawsuits against Motsamai and his camp. The latter has since launched counter claims, which were filed in court just last month (November 2018).
Deep seated divisions at the Kasane congress saw the agenda items abandoned for three days as the opposing camps heckled each other. The biggest disagreement was over the reinstatement of the suspended members ahead of elections, demanded by the Motsamai camp but opposed by Mogwera faction. Now, the union will have to fork out another P5.5 million next year to call a special congress to deliberate on the aborted discussions of agenda items.
In the Wednesday elections Mogwera defeated Isaac Marobela and Dingoko Thipe (President); former Regional Chairperson Remmogo -Olefile Monakwe defeated incumbent Martin Gabobakwe (1st Vice President); Patricia Raditladi defeated Ntesang Mothibedi and Kagiso Rangaka (2nd Vice President) while Panana Dipatane defeated Tlhabologo Galekhutle for Treasurer General. “Congratulations to the whole team that won, not forgetting the soldiers who fought behind the scenes to see that this day comes to light. Monakwe will ascend the presidency next year when Mogwera will be forced to step down as President of BOPEU. This is the beginning of the liberation of BOPEU,” said a member of the Motsamai camp, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisals.
Even more brutal on Mogwera camp is former 2nd Vice President Ogaufi Masame who is demanding the reinstament of the suspended members with immediate effect. Masame was used as a decoy to distract the Mogwera camp when she submitted her name for nomination as 2nd Vice President. She was later disqualified because she was not among the three applicants who had their suspensions lifted by the highcourt last Friday, just days before congress. She said “all those soldiers unfairly and unprocedurally suspended should, as a matter of emergency be reinstated to their respective positions”. Masame said Mogwera’s re-election as President of BOPEU is a bitter pill to swallow and a self inflicted pain on herself because she will involuntarily lead a batallion of men and women, clean and focused on giving the union back to the people. “… and to safe guard the funds and integrity of the Union against her background of funds mismanagement, bad investments and a looming court case hanging over her head,” said Masame, without elaborating further.
The incoming leadership have also trained their guns on the Secretariat Office, currently led by Secretary General Topius Marenga who is a full time employee on contract. Unhappy with what they term Marenga’s partiality, they said his position must be reviewed as a matter of emergency so that he makes a way for a more objective and efficient Secretary General who has the interests of the union at heart. “The office bearer should not be used by current leadership in mischievous underhand tactics against law abiding union members in good standing,” one of them observed.
Ahead of controversial elections the poisoned relations between members had been criticised by Jimson Richard, chairman of the FRANKMATTS region when welcoming delegates to Kasane. He complained of disturbing acts of intolerance, lawsuits and suspensions which damage BOPEU image.
However, Mogwera, had steered clear of controversy and directed her Presidential address to pertinent issues among them ill treatment of trade unions by Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) and called for the resuscitation the defunct Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). She said BOPEU has vowed to fight with all its might to protect its organisational and collective bargaining rights currently threatened by DPSM, and have already taken legal steps to do so.
Mogwera also expressed concern about the handling of labour disputes at the Industrial Court. She said dispute should be escalated to a Labour Court of Appeal instead of the current ractice where they are taken to the High Court.
Meanwhile President Mokgweetsi Masisi called on trade unions to work with government to create jobs, saying the contribution of the labour movement is critical in driving programmes and strategies designed for employment creation. To show commitment to rebuilding cordial relations Masisi said a tripartite workshop attended by trade unions, employers’ organisations and the government convened in Maun last week to review and align labour laws such as the Public Service Act, Trade Disputes Act, the Employment Act and the Trade Unions and Employers Organisation Act.
Such platforms, Masisi said, enhance contributions by all stakeholders on issues relating to collective bargaining, mediation and arbitration. He said; “As a trade union your core mandate is the protection of workers’ rights with respect to their conditions of service and the need for a harmonious employer-employee relationship”.
Reiterating government’s unwavering commitment to resuscitation of the PSBC, Masisi said he had instructed senior government officials to ensure that a conducive work environment and a healthy working relationships are created and nurtured in the government machinery.
On repeated calls for better remuneration and improved conditions of service, Masisi concurred, saying a study conducted by Botswana National Productivity Centre has found that competent, motivated and engaged employees tended to be happier, more satisfied, behaved in ways that supported organisational values and strategies and had a stronger sense of personal well-being and tended to go an extra mile. The study established that a demotivated workforce had a spiral effect, bred unhappy personnel, dissatisfied customers and poor service delivery.