Sunday, October 17, 2021

Pilane cashed in on BOPEU political patronage mess

Sidney Pilane’s hand in the fight for Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leadership was strengthened this week as he emerged as the clean up guy in the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) political patronage mess which threatens to end a number of political careers.

A disturbing pattern of influence of BOPEU linked money in opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) politics was unraveling this week following the expulsion of union strongman Andrew Motsamai.

In a power struggle with far reaching political implications playing out in court, in the board room and in the media, Pilane who is on a BOPEU P37 000 a month retainer will be responsible for appointing a forensic audit which will determine the future of a number of important political careers.

Among BOPEU’s apparent political patronage transactions which have raised eye brows are the P90 000 legal fees paid to Botswana National Front and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President Duma Boko. BNF Youth League 2016 Presidential candidate, and current BOPEU head of education, training & research Kago Mokotedi was this week called for a hearing by the union’s disciplinary committee.

Mokotedi who is part of Boko’s inner circle faces among other things charges on his role in the P92 000. 00 payments to Boko. Also in the spotlight is the BNF Secretary General, Moeti Mohashwa’s P300 million deal with BOPEU which has been put on hold.

Mohwasa this week instructed private lawyers, Kambai Attorneys to demand P15 million from BOPEU as commission owed to him following a P300 million deal that collapsed resulting in Motsamai’s dismissal from BOPEU.

Mohwasa is also part of Boko’s inner circle that has been resisting calls from party members to break ranks with the Pilane led faction of the Botswana Movement for Democracy and align with the popular Ndaba Gaolathe led camp.

Pilane’s forensic audit is also expected to investigate the P1.2 billion deal between BOPEU and Ernest Molome, an influential figure in the BNF who has Boko’s ear. Molome walked away with P12,5 million in commission fees in a deal in which he was supposed to raise P 1,2 billion from Sanlam in |South Africa and Botswana Life. The deal however collapsed after Sanlam released only P50 million but Molome was allowed to keep the commission which he had been paid in advance.

Pilane forensic audit is also expected to investigate the tender to supply stationary and diaries to BOPEU which was awarded to BNF Molepolole Councilor, Arafat Khan. The youthful motor mouth is also part of Boko’s inner circle.

It is however not clear if the audit will also investigate the money allegedly donated by BOPEU to the Pilane led faction to boost their war chest in the fight against Gaolatlhe in Bobonong which led to the split in the party.

With Pilane, who was Motsamai’s trusted ally and cousin now pulling the strings as puppet master of the BOPEU team that fired Motsamai, the boardroom brawl at the richest union in the country was this week taking a Shakespearean twist. Pilane seemed determined to throw his cousin and erstwhile ally under the bus as he is now advising the union against Motsamai.

Some insiders are however worried that instead of helping to steer the rudderless union, Pilane’s questionable appointment is instead sowing confusion and uncertainty among BOPEU members and staff.

Sunday Standard investigations have turned up information that there was no board resolution appointing Pilane to lead the forensic audit although the union was last week copying crucial union documents and sending them to Pilane. Some members are also questioning the morality of Pilane’s appointment, pointing out that not only is he an interested party in the BOPEU scandal, but also as an advocate he has to be instructed by a practicing attorney and not deal directly with a client.

Some BOPEU insiders even go so far as suggesting that the BMD factional leader is the invisible hand behind Motsamai’s downfall. It is understood that Pilane last year prevailed over Motsamai to give up his power as president of BOPEU and take up a less powerful position as executive Chairman of Babereki Investments, an investment arm of BOPEU. Pilane first discussed the issue with Motsamai last year when the pair had travelled to Francistown along with union lawyer Otto Itumeleng where BOPEU was challenging former judge, Kholisani Solo to recuse himself from their case.

Although roundly blamed as the man behind the BOPEU crisis, indications are that Motsamai is only a fall guy and collateral damage in the political maneuver with billions of Pula at stake. Documents passed to the Sunday Standard reveal that most of the decision at Babereki Investments for which Motsamai is being blamed were taken long before he was appointed to the BOPEU investment arm.

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