The Botswana Mine Workers Union president, Jack Tlhagale, last week walked out of court a relieved man after thwarting attempts to remove him from office by his rivals within the union executive.
Three members of the BMWU executive, Bob Malele, Joseph Tsimako and Bapamizi Mocheregwa, had filed an urgent application before the courts seeking an order declaring that Tlhagale and Happy Bashe’s nomination and eventual election into office was unlawful.
They also wanted the two to be interdicted from performing any duties related to their positions, and stop dealing with any properties and chattels of the union.
The three argued that Tlhagale and Bashe’s monthly membership subscriptions are undetermined as they do not have basic salaries which can be used as a reference point to calculate the membership subscriptions.
Tlhagale and Bashe’s union membership was also questioned as they were not employed by any mining house, after their employment was terminated by Debswana in 2004.
The two were also accused of defaulting in their monthly subscriptions to the union for a period in excess of three months, which, according to the BMWU constitution, automatically suspends their membership.
“A suspended union member automatically loses all rights and privileges, including the right and privilege to stand for elections. Again, the BMWU general council resolved that members who are not employed within industries specified in the rules and constitution of the union should be refunded their subscription fees,” said the applicants.
When opposing the application, Tlhagale and Bashe, through their lawyer Tshiamo Rantao, argued that the applicants knew that they ceased to be employees of Debswana as far back as 2005, but did nothing to challenge their inclusion in the BMWU executive.
“To insist that this is an urgent application is an abuse of the court process,” they said.
Justice Garekwe concurred, saying reasons forwarded by the applicants do not warrant any urgency. She also found that the applicants have not accused Tlhagale of acting prejudicially to the interests of BMWU in the time that he has been in office, or that he might sabotage the union’s interests in future.
She said Tlhagale and Bashe’s nomination and eventual election into office was not opposed or challenged by any of the applicants. She observed that the applicants filed their case before the courts two months after the two were elected into office.
“The applicants’ attempt to portray Thagale and Bashe as somewhat of a danger to the running of BMWU was not backed by union members. To the contrary the Registrar of Trade Unions has refused to register Malele on the basis of reports from BMWU casting aspersions on his character through allegations of misuse of funds,” said Justice Garekwe.
She also said there is no tangible evidence to warrant the applicants’ apprehension that, in the absence of an interdict against them, Tlhagale and Bashe‘s continued leadership of the union would cause irreparable harm. She faulted the applicants for failing to clearly and carefully show the dangers of irreparable harm instead of making mere allegations of fear.
She said Tlhagale and Bashe have been BMWU office bearers for time immemorial, and the status quo can prevail without prejudice to the union.
“The granting of the interim relief will prejudice the union as it will effectively lose a President and a Secretary General,” said Justice Garekwe.
The applicants were ordered to pay the costs of the lawsuit.