BOPEU boardroom brawl gathers pace

27 Aug 2018

The fight for the heart and soul of Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) escalated to the Court of Appeal this week.

In papers before the Court, BOPEU’s National Executive Committee member, Zibani Philemon pleads with Court of Appeal’s Justice Lakvinder Walia to overturn a judgement delivered by High Court Justice Godfrey Nthomiwa which dismissed a resolution to interdict the union’s President Masego Mogwera and treasure Tlhabologo Galekhutle from continuing to draw “salaries never sanctioned by the union structures.”

Calling for the suspension of Mogwera and Galekhutle, Philemon argues that the two unionists have paid themselves salaries which have not been sanctioned by the union structures.

“The 1st Respondent (Mogwera) is alleged to be drawing a salary in excess of P70 000 and the Second Respondent (Galekhutle in excess of P65 000. This fact ought to be investigated before disciplinary proceedings are brought against the Respondents,” said Philemon in his affidavit.

.He said it has been discovered by the NEC that Mogwera and Galekhutle have been earning secondment remuneration which were not sanctioned by the National General Council (NGC) or Central Executive Committee (CEC); the NEC was not aware of the sad fact.

“Any office bearer who draws a salary which is not sanctioned by the NGC or CEC would be earning the same unlawfully and contrary to the provisions of the constitution.  The 1st Respondent has been earning a salary in excess of P70 000 with effect from the 1st of June 2017. The NEC is not yet sure of the exact salary she draws as the Respondents have frustrated the NEC’s efforts to investigate the matter,” argued Philemon.

He added that “The 2nd Respondent has been earning a salary in excess of P65 000 with effect from 1st June 2016. Neither myself nor the NEC were able to verify the exact amount the 2nd Respondent is earning.”  

Philemon said the union has already lost an amount in excess of 2.4 million as a result of the unlawful act by Mogwera and Galekhutle.

“It is imperative for the court to intervene to protect the interests of the members of the union against the unlawful conduct of the respondents,” he said.

He said BOPEU’s First Deputy President, Martin Gabobake (Third Respondent) ought to be suspended as he sought to frustrate the efforts of the NEC to suspend and investigate the unlawful conduct of Mogwera and Galekhutle. Philemon said Gabobake had at a recent meeting admitted that he was part of the group which authorised the said unlawful act.

He said BOPEU Secretary General Topias Marenga and Deputy Secretary General Ketlhapelang Karabo are full time employees of the union and are charged with the finances of the Union.

He said they are the ones who implemented and continue to implement the unlawful act by paying Mogwera and Galekhutle salaries not sanctioned by the right structures of the Union.

“It is therefore in the interest of the Union that the Respondents be suspended so that the NEC or such persons as maybe appointed by the union investigate this matter to establish the extent of the damage,” he said.

Philemon further stated that “The respondents have also instructed staff not to release any information to members of the NEC.  They may at the moment be taking steps to conceal information which is relevant to this matter in an attempt to frustrate the investigations.  The NEC will not be able to investigate the matter while the Respondents are still in office.”

He said the matter is urgent because it is concerns the use of funds of the union contrary to the provisions of the constitution of the union.

“The court ought to intervene at the earliest opportunity to protect not only the interests of the Applicants but the interests of members of the Union whose funds are expended otherwise than as provided by their constitution,” said Philemon.  

He said “The membership of BOPEU is now in access of 35000 and it is the monthly subscriptions of the said members that are used to pay the 1st and 2nd Respondents secondment remuneration which is not approved by members.”

He said the continued use of the funds of the union in an unlawful manner negatively affects the Union finances and the Union may be unable to assist its members due to lack of funds and discharge its functions as a result of the unlawful conduct of the Respondents.

He said Mogwera had also sought to suspend him and other members of the National Executive Committee who played an active role in raising the issue of the unlawful payments made to Mogwera and Galekhutle.  

Philemon said Nthomiwa has upheld his suspension and other NEC members by Mogwera on the basis that they do not have the right to represent the Union but warned that the consequence of that could lead to the union losing millions.

“The effect of the judgment and order of the court a quo is that the 1st and 2nd Respondent can continue to be paid more than P70, 000.00 (Seventy Thousand Pula) and P65, 000.00 (Sixty Five Thousand Pula) respectively, every month whereas the said salaries were never determined and approved by the members and whereas the payment of the same is contrary to the provision of the constitution.,” said Philemon.

Philemon said he and other NEC members are prevented from taking necessary steps to stop the unlawful conduct by Mogwera and they are prevented from participating in any activity of the Union.