Hardly a year after she came to Botswana to take over the reins as head honcho of Botswana’s largest bank, Barclays Bank Botswana Managing Director, Reinette Van der Merwe finds herself battling to parry lawsuits and allegations of unfair labour practices. Even before she could settle into her new role as Barclays MD, acclimatise herself with Botswana and make new friends, Van de Merwe seems to have already made enemies, as she has been hauled before the courts on allegations that she employed a number of expatriates without work and residence permits.
In what looks like a clash between two top managers at Barclays, the bank’s Senior Regional Relations Director, Seseti Mogami has approached the High Court seeking an order that Reinette Van der Merwe should be prosecuted by the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for breaching the country’s labour laws by allegedly employing a considerable number of non-citizens without work permits. Barclays Bank Botswana is cited as the first respondent while Van der Merwe is the second respondent. In papers filed before the court, Mogami stated that from the time Van der Merwe was employed by Barclays, she has continuously employed non-citizens to work for the bank without work permits as stipulated in the Immigration Act.
Some of the names of the employees are listed in the court papers. Mogami wants the court to issue a declarator that engaging non-citizens to work in Botswana without work permits constitutes an offence under the Immigration Act by Barclays Bank Botswana and Van der Merwe. Mogami also seeks an order directing that in the event of a prosecution by the DPP and the defendants are convicted, the matter be brought to the attention of the Minister in terms of section 30 of the Immigration Act for purposes of exercising discretion whether to cancel the permits currently held by Van der Merwe as a result of the conviction. Mogami said his relationship with Barclays Bank has always been cordial and the same position maintained for a few months after the appointment of Van der Merwe as Managing Director. However he revealed that of late Van der Merwe has adopted a combative approach towards him.
“I requested her to desist from employing non-citizens to work for Barclays bank with no work permits contrary to the immigration laws of this country,” said Mogami. He further revealed that he tried without success to seek protection from Van der Merwe within the structures of the bank, but to no avail due to the seniority and influential position of the Managing Director. Court papers show that the two top managers’ relationship “broke down irreparably” after Mogami refused to undergo medical assessment by a Dr Cavric as requested by the bank, resulting in his suspension. In a letter addressed to Mogami, which forms part of the evidence brought before court, Van der Merwe raked Mogami over hot coals for continually refusing to abide by a very well established capability procedure of the Bank.
“I repeat that you are aware that the steps the bank is taking are not punitive and are legitimate in terms of Guide to Policies and Practices of the Bank and the capability procedure. I note further that during my absence, you sent a letter to the Bank dated 9 June 2014 accusing me of breaching the labour laws of Botswana and discriminating against you. I note that in the penultimate paragraph of your letter you demand that the Bank withdraws its letters, including the letter of June 4 2014 requesting that you attend medical assessment, or else you would send a copy of your letter to the Commissioner of Labour, the Governor of the Bank of Botswana as well as the Office of the President of the Republic of Botswana,” said Van der Merwe.
She further stated that they have not withdrawn any of Mogami’s letters and requested that Mogami advise her whether he had delivered the letter to the authorities as threatened. “If you have, please provide me with copies of such letters. If you have not so delivered the letter, I require an explanation as to why you would make such a threat.
This is clear blackmail of me and the Bank, which is in direct contravention of the values of the Bank which are binding upon you as an employee, and testimony that your personal relationship with the Bank has broken down. I say this because there is nothing that could justify such course of action,” said Van der Merwe. She further warned Mogami that his intransigence in refusing to be tested by Dr Cavric was very destructive as it hindered progress and conclusion of the capability issues facing his relationship with the Bank.