Monday, November 29, 2021

Manual Workers’ battle with BPOPF goes to court

National Amalgamated Local & Central Government & Parastatal Workers Union (NAL&CGPWU), popularly known as Manual Workers Union, has launched a spirited fight in the High Court in which it wants to be represented in the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF).

Manual Workers Union, which boasts of 38 000 members, has no representation in the Fund because before the 2008 Public Service Act its members were not employed on permanent and pensionable basis.
Now the union has dragged all Trustees of the Fund before the courts, arguing that their appointment was illegal as the rules of the fund were not followed.

Among the members cited in the court papers are: president of Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) Andrew Motsamai, secretary general of the Botswana Land Boards and Local Authorities Health Workers Union (BLLAWHU) Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, president of Botswana Sector for Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) Shandukai Hlabano.

The union wants the representation of BOPEU, BTU, BOSETU and BLLAWHU in the Fund to be declared invalid as it contravenes the rules of the Fund as no elections were held to vote for them.

In a sworn statement before the High Court, Manual Workers Union Organising Secretary, Johnson Motshwarakgole, said none of the members of the Fund representing the unions were elected through the process envisaged in the rules. He said the appointment of the member trustees violated the rules of BPOPF in that they were not elected by the membership of BPOPF (civil servants), they were not elected at a meeting of members and that they have not been elected through a ballot.

“The current practice of allowing unions to designate representatives is not only undemocratic, but a flagrant breach of the rules. It is therefore has to be declared invalid. The current practice must come to an end, and the membership of the First Respondent (BPOPF) be allowed to choose their representative as envisaged by the Rules,” he said.

Motshwarakgole said a meeting of the membership of BPOPF has never been convened as required by the Rules. He said he previously wrote a letter to BPOPF on behalf of aggrieved members of his union who were displeased by the absence of representation but never got any response.

He said the irony of it is that despite Manual Workers Union having more members who have taken up membership of the BPOPF than any other trade union, his union has never been invited to send a representative to BPOPF board of trustees.

“The running of First Respondent (BPOPF) with duly appointed member trustees has been extremely prejudicial to the members. Some of the member trustees do not represent the interests of the First Respondent, but there are there to advance narrow personal interests to the detriment of the First Respondent’s Members.”

Motshwarakgole said the past year has seen a number of unexplained decisions purportedly taken on behalf of the BPOPF in flagrant disregard of the rules or best interest of members.

He said such decisions include termination of Ephraim Letebele’s contract of employment on the most spurious of grounds, the renewal of the management contract of Portugal Telecommunications despite expert advice to the contrary, the removal of Anthony Siwawa, who is a leading on Venture Capita in the country, from the Board of Mascom Wireless and his replacement with Allan Keitseng, who managed to bankrupt the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) through poor management skills.

The union also challenges the appointment of the Director of Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM), Carter Morupisi as chairperson of the fund. Motshwarakgole says the resolution that appointed him as chairperson is invalid because union members participated in the vote when they were not entitled to, by reason of the fact that they sit unlawfully on the Board.

“Morupisi has been brought in to lead the Fund so he can advance partisan interests to the detriment of the First Respondent.”

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