Image conscious BOPEU in disarray

03 Aug 2018

The Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) leadership was to lock horns in court in a legal battle that pits its President Masego Mogwera against a faction led by one Zibani Philemon.

In an interview late Monday, Philemon confirmed that their lawyers were working on serving the Mogwera-led faction with court papers.

BOPEU which prides itself as ‘the union of choice’ is currently in disarray following an exchange of suspension letters between the National Executive Committee leadership over the weekend.

The dispute arises from a meeting that was meant to look at the Union’s progress reports on Saturday 28th July at Cresta Lodge in Gaborone. The meeting resulted in the suspension of Mogwera and four other executives. Philemon was then appointed as the Interim President on the fateful Saturday. Mogwera later turned the tables by suspending Philemon and barred him from speaking to the press.

Philemon told The Telegraph that they were launching an urgent application to remove the suspended five among them Mogwera whom he said have since refused to vacate office this week.

“This has become a national matter, there is no turning back. We sent someone to deliver the letters to the suspended team today and they refused to take the letters resembling the Union logo. We cannot be held at ransom. The lawyers have not given us a signal as yet, until then, then we can seek for a court order to remove them from office,” Philemon told The Telegraph Monday evening.

Philemon later called this reporter to give an update on their decision to approach the court on urgent basis.

“Our lawyers are working on court papers and we are serving them tonight. We will go to court anytime from now,” he said.

Speaking to The Telegraph on Monday afternoon, Mogwera seemed not bothered.

“We are in the office doing what our members expect us to do, it is business as usual,” she said calmly.

Mogwera said that, “these people are causing chaos and I have since suspended them from the Union. When you declare state of emergency, everything has to stop. The least they could have done was to conduct a meeting afresh at the Saturday meeting. They violated the constitution.

I am the custodian of the BOPEU constitution, only a court order can take me out of this office.”

She accused the other faction of the NEC of failing to allow the evaluation of report to be concluded and resolutions adopted instead of suspending her and other members.

The least they could have done, she suggests, was to stop the evaluation of report proceedings and start the meeting afresh. “They have been saying they are going to court since Saturday, no development yet from their side,” she said.

Mogwera has assured the BOPEU members not worry. Should there be any displeasure by the members, she said, the constitution allows them to write through their branches indicating their dissatisfaction and call for a special congress.

She indicated that there have not been any complaints from branches across the country.

Mogwera was suspended together with her General Secretary Topias Marenga and Deputy GS, First Deputy President and Treasurer General. The five were suspended on the grounds that, the remuneration of the President and Treasurer General was not sanctioned by the National General Congress (NGC) or CEC; ordinarily it should been submitted to the 2017 Central Executive Committee (CEC) for determination.

The suspension letter signed by Philemon states that “Prior to 2017 CEC, NEC took a resolution not to implement any part of the structure that has financial implications to the Union, but rather the pay structure should be costed so that NEC can determine the affordability of the structure by the Union before implementation. Despite the resolution taken by NEC and ratified by 2017 NEC, the five members went ahead and implemented BOPEU pay structure.”

The letter further reveals that the cost implications of their unauthorized decision to the Union is to the tune of P1,8million for the eight months that the structure has been in implementation.

On the other hand Philemon who identified himself as the interim president of the union also assured members that the matter is being facilitated in a professional manner.

Philemon further told this publication that from during the NEC meeting held in April/May 2018 in Palapye, Mogwera and her team had presented a spreadsheet which showed a variation of P250 000.00 in a year. This, he said, was alluded to as the performance award.

“They implemented the new structure without looking at the cost implications. They hired a legal personnel and that also came at a cost. They are failing to fairly justify the variations and as to how much each of them is getting from the secondment allowance which she (Mogwera) admitted to,” said Philemon.

He hinted that there were allegations of funds embezzlement of the union by its leadership. Philemon further told this publication that the NEC has been waiting for over seven months for the forensic audit to be released. Since the departure of former Union President and CEO of Babereki Investments, Andrew Motsamai, Philemon said a forensic audit was instructed but has not borne any fruits.

“The Auditor has sometime asked for an extension of time to conduct the forensic audit,” he said.

The same day that she was suspended by the Philemon-led faction, Mogwera issued a statement declaring a state of emergency.

“The state of emergency was declared during a meeting of the National Executive Committee meeting convened at Cresta Lodge on 28th July 2018 in terms of BOPEU constitution,” said Mogwera.

She also instructed Marenga to address members on these developments and a scheduled meeting shall be completed in due course.

Article 30.1 of BOPEU’s constitution stipulates that ‘The President may where and in the interest of the Union and during the NGC, CEC or SGC or any gathering of the Union , and in cases of an emergency, declare that a state of emergency exists, and may thereafter take any action necessary and proper in circumstances.’