Saturday, December 3, 2022

Union leaders fight over subsidiary company

Some members of the Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU) central executive committee have been given up to today (Wednesday) to show cause why they should not be removed from their portfolios, as internal bickering within the union leadership threatens to escalate.

BLLAHWU president, Goretetse Kekgonegile, has threatened to crack the whip by reshuffling the central executive committee due to inefficiency and non-commitment by some portfolio holders. In letters written to the union’s Secretary General, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, and the Secretary for International Affairs, Keaoleboga Dipogiso, last week Wednesday-14 March 2012, Kekgonegile warned the two that their positions may be affected by the looming reshuffle of the central executive committee (CEC) members.

“I hereby give you the opportunity to make any representations or place before me any relevant material facts in respect of yourself which you may want me to take into account in exercising my powers to reshuffle members of the CEC. Such… should be done in writing and delivered to my office within five (5) working days from the date of receipt of this letter,” wrote Kekgonegile.

The reshuffle will only affect the two positions as other members of CEC have not been issued with the letter to show cause why they should not be reshuffled. In justifying the decision, Kekgonegile said it has come to his realization that the union has become inefficient in certain Central Executive Committee portfolios which hampers efficiency of other union structures and runs the risk of an emergence of a culture of non-commitment to the union within membership and some structures of the union.

However, Kekgonegile’s decision will face challenges from his detractors. While Kekgonegile claims in the letters that he is considering the reshuffle of the CEC members by powers vested in him by BLLAHWU Constitution Article 13.2.6 his detractors argue that he is relying on an obsolete instrument in the old constitution which was repealed during the amendment of the constitution at the March 2010 Extra ordinary conference in Ramotswa.

“In the amended constitution the president does not enjoy such powers,” said a source in the union leadership.

Contrary to Kekgonegile’s reasons for the reshuffle sources are adamant that the decision was triggered by a recent BLLAHWU central executive committee decision which reversed Kekgonegile’s unilateral re-appointment of one Tshepo Kgwadi as a Fund Administrator of BLLAHWU Burial Society. The CEC decision nullifying Kekgonegile’s has brought into sharp focus his vulnerability in leading a committee dominated by his opponents at the elective congress in Mochudi in December 2010.

In the central executive committee, Kekgonegile has four members who belonged to his campaign list at the congress, while his opponents in the other camp have seven positions. Due to this, and the strategic position of the secretary general, Kekgonegile feels threatened by the other camp and hence the decision to remove Motshegwa and replace him with someone from his side, it is alleged.

“It would appear that the rivalry between the factions never died after congress and could be rekindled. ‘Cut’ is uncomfortable working with the guys from the other side that’s why he wants to reshuffle,” said another insider. ‘Cut’ is Kekgonegile’s moniker.

Members of Kekgonegile’s lobby list who were elected into the CEC include deputy secretary general, Augustine Kaisara, the National Organizing Secretary, Gerald Only Mahumba, and Daniel Kgosiitsile-Secretary for Arts Sports and Culture.

The other faction consists of the two vice Presidents, Disang Mokwape, and Kagiso Watema-Moreetsi, Secretary General Motshegwa, Treasurer General-Yarobi Motswaiso, Publicity Secretary- Monthusi Morewakwena, Secretary for International Relations-Dipogiso and National Education Coordinator Rose Lesole.

The reversal was made at a CEC meeting of 09 March 2012 at which Kekgonegile was defeated by a vote demonstrating how powerless he is without the numbers on his side. The meeting resolved that the appointment of Kgwadi is invalid as proper employment procedures of the society as well as those of the union were not observed.

“The people who made the appointment did so under no authority from either the union or the society. Tshepo Kgwadi is declared not to be an employee of the society and barred from entering the society’s premises and perform any duty as an employee of the society”.

The CEC decision was communicated to all the parties in the matter through a memo titled Settlement Proposal from Motshegwa- the secretary general on the same day it was taken.

The Telegraph is in possession of documents indicating that ahead of the expiration of Kgwadi’s contract on 31 January 2012 the Burial Society management committee had informed her in writing that her contract will not be renewed. However, Kekgonegile and BLLAHWU deputy secretary general Augustine Kaisara overturned the decision and re-appointed Kgwadi to the same position, thus renewing her contract by a further three years. They informed the Burial Society’s Accounts Officer on March 1, 2012 that the union central committee had renewed the contract beginning 5 March 2012.

Such claim was dismissed by the union secretary general the next day in a letter revealing that the CEC had neither met to renew the contract nor to discuss any matter relating to the society’s affairs. The CEC distanced itself from the conduct of Kekgonegile and Kaisara so that it was not answerable for their actions.

Kgwadi’s reappointment created a conflict because the Burial Society had introduced a new structure in which the position of Fund Administrator had become redundant. Consequent to Kgwadi’s reappointment, the Burial Society filed an urgent application at the High Court, case No. 0000140-12, seeking to reverse the decision.

The respondents in the matter are the society’s parent company, BLLAWU (registered under societies Act), Kekgonegile, Kaisara and Kgwadi. In a founding affidavit, dated 06 March 2012, the Chairman of BLLAHWU Burial Society, Tebogo Moalosi, sought an order to restrain BLLAWU, Kekgonegile and Kaisara from interfering in all forms of internal operations or affairs of the Burial society, and more especially the renewal of Kgwadi’s contract of employment with the society.

Moalosi also wanted court to set aside the renewal of Kgwadi’s contract of employment and subsequent employment with the Burial Society and to bar her from entering their premises and performing any duty as an employee. Further, they wanted Kekgonegile and Kaisara ordered to return Kgwadi’s personal file to the Burial society’s offices.

Besides accusing Kekgonegile and Kaisara of undermining its authority, the Burial Society leadership further fault the duo for flagrant and wanton interference with its operations.

The society said they wanted the matter heard urgently because Kgwadi had resumed her purported duties on March 5, 2012 under the allegation that her contract had been renewed by the CEC. This, Moalosi, said would cause irreparable harm to the society because they do not have a budget for the position but would be expected to pay her salary if she continues to work to the end of the month.

“The autonomous or independent rights that the applicant enjoys as a separate entity will not only be prejudiced but also seriously compromised if the 4th respondent were to continue to work for the applicant in that it would mean that its operations or affairs can be interfered with at will by anyone even without due authority,” reads part of the affidavit.
BLLAWU Burial Society a company wholy owned by the union and was registered on March 3, 2010 with the Registrar of Societies, with its own constitution that governs its own affairs and operations. It was formed to promote a platform for a collectively and affordable funeral scheme for the union members, amongst other objectives. Moalosi avers in court papers that the Burial Society is a separate entity and operates independently from the union demonstrated by factors such as its authority to invest and raise its own revenue from contributions made by its members, and acquisition and ownership of own property.

“Where any matter or question relating to the day-to-day administration of the applicant, its committee is vested with discretionary powers to deal with such,” he said.

The CEC members who has been notified of the impending reshuffle and are likely to be affected had not responded to the invitation to show cause why they should not be reshuffled at the time of going to press.


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