The further polarization of Botswana’s labour movement played itself out once again over the weekend at a joint meeting of Botswana Primary Teachers Association (BOPRITA) and Botswana Primary Teachers Union (BOPRITU). The two were ordered to hold a joint meeting to sort out their differences after they sought the court’s intervention in a battle for members and funds.
When government decided that associations should be unionized, BOPRITA members formed BOPRITU, but left the association intact. BOPRITU was registered and launched in December 2010. The formation of BOPRITU led to some differences, as the leadership of the new union wanted to usurp control of BOPRITA’s funds.
“BOPRITA had long standing agreements with third party organizations, among them Thito Holdings which, among other things, provided loans to the association’s membership. Because of this, there was due legal processes to be followed before finances could be diverted to BOPRITU’s accounts,” said BOPRITU President Sam Malete.
It was then that BOPRITA, with the representation of attorney Duma Boko, sought the intervention of the High Court. High Court Judge Isaac Lesetedi then ordered the two parties to hold a joint meeting at which the membership will decide if the funds should be kept in BOPRITA accounts or diverted to BOPRITU. The first meeting failed to bear fruit as both organization disregarded Lesetedi’s order and held separate meetings at BNPC and UB.
Another order was issued for the two to hold a joint meeting on June 9th, which would later break down into chaos.
Ahead of the meeting, BOPRITA released a statement denouncing BOPRITU as a shell organization that survives from stealing money from BOPRITA accounts.
“BPRITU leaders failed to account for P 54 000 and P25 000. In one day, they cashed P48 000, P10 000, P12 8880, P3404.80 and P2600. Police investigations are intensifying and they are now closing in on the culprits,” read a statement by BOPRITA Vice President, Jacob Tshipo.
The meeting was attended by the attorneys of the two parties and officials of the Independent Electoral Commission.
“When BOPRITU members realized that they were losing out, they started disrupting the voting process. They made noise and sent intimidating messages to the membership,” said Malete.
In the end, BOPRITU members walked out of the voting process. The results show that 276 people voted in favour of BOPRITA. The BOPRITU vote was registered as zero. The results of the voting process will be presented to Justice Lesetedi on Friday.