BOPEU Congress in doubt

23 Nov 2018

Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) elective general congress slated for December in Kasane hangs in the balance as some members of National Executive Committee who were suspended by union President Masego Motshegwa are set to take her and the union to court.

Mogwera has since suspended Modise Ramaretwa, Olifile Marekwe, Tulo Mojasagwagwe and Tshepo Maribela who are regional chairpersons of the union over some alleged “serious misconduct.”

In the letters addressed to the suspended members, Motshegwa does not disclose the nature of the “serious misconduct” that the members are alleged to have committed. But it is understood that they are part of a group that attempted to topple Mogwera earlier this year.

The suspended members have since engaged Kanjabanga Attorneys to challenge their suspension.

In a letter dated 15 November the lawyers state that “We advise that by issuing the letters of suspension, you made a decision upon a matter in which you do not possess the power to decide. In other words you made an order which you do not have the power to make.”

The lawyers argued that the National Executive Council is seized with the power to discipline other members adding that Mogwera’s decision is illegal and liable to be set aside.

“Further you indicate in your letter(s) that that the suspension shall be pending decision of the National Executive Committee. As you might be aware in terms of Articles 24.3.4 the quorum of the National Executive Council is 2 thirds majority. The National Executive Council consists of 20 members and you have conveniently decided to suspend clients. The National Executive Committee would not be able to form a quorum to decide on the matter,” the lawyers stated.

The lawyers also took issue with “the foundation upon which the decision to suspend was taken. In your suspension letter(s) you state that clients did not address the allegations levelled against them sufficiently. There are therefore no facts upon which the decision to suspend clients could reasonably be based.”  

“Clients strongly believe that the decision to suspend is grossly unreasonable and is driven by bad faith. The decision is not to advance the interests of the union but to obtain private gain for yourself. Elections for the National Office Bearers and the Boards would be held in three weeks time. You would rather have such elections held with clients on suspension so that they would not be available for re election,” the lawyers said.

The suspended members said they are also concerned that “before reaching the decision to suspend by yourself, there was not the slightest consideration of the rules of natural justice and to safeguard yourself against bias.”  

“There is real apprehension of bias against you as our clients are nemesis in the power struggle and you really intend to prove a point. Your personal vendetta against clients is perceived. This danger of bias or suspicion of bias is quite real as opposed to being remote, fanciful, flimsy, farfetched or entirely speculative because of your intense dislike of clients,” the lawyers argued.  

The lawyers further stated that “You initiated the disciplinary proceedings against client and made the decision to suspend. It is quite apparent that you became both a judge and prosecutor in the same case. Impartially (sic) demands hearing of defence evidence before a decision is made. Defence evidence is unlikely to be heard if the judge is the prosecutor in the same cause.”

The lawyers advised Mogwera that in the event that she does not withdraw the suspension they would request records in her possession with information she relied on in suspending their clients. The case is expected to be heard on 20 November.