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Leaked: Why BOPEU left BOFEPUSU

An internal communication of the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) detailing the reasons behind disaffiliating from the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has been leaked, and it categorically states that “BOPEU and BOFEPUSU” can never work together because they believe in two different things.”  

BOPEU is a founding member, alongside Manual Workers Union (NACLGPWU) or “MWU”, of Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU). However, in recent months and years the working relationship between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU has ‘irretrievably broken down’ , as illustrated in the following incidents and developments. In December 2015 BOPEU Congress resolved to disaffiliate from BOFEPUSU and to carry out due diligence on Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU), before a final decision to affiliate to BFTU could be made.

BOFEPUSU Congress of February 2015

The leaked BOPEU communication points to several issues that have arisen which caused a serious strain on relations between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU, “which relations are now irreconcilable”.

Congress Call –  BOPEU says According to clause 3.3.1.3 of the BOFEPUSU constitution the 2015 Congress should have been held in August 2014, with the Congress call issued 90 days prior (i.e. in June 2014), accompanied by an Agenda. BOPEU contends that BOFEPUSU Executive delayed the holding of Congress without any valid reason (e.g. valid reason could be pending audit), until BOPEU threatened, in October 2014, to withhold subscriptions as leverage to compel BOFEPUSU to obey its own constitution. Had it not been for BOPEU’s intervention, in writing and threatening, that a Call to Congress was made by BOFEPUSU Secretary General in December 2014 for February 2015.

“This deliberate avoidance of Congress caused a lot of animosity, political skirmishes and strain on relations between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU. It also indicates the administrative and organisational state of BOFEPUSU,” reads the document.  

BOPEU Motions – In the view of BOPEU, their written motions were not allowed (not permitted for discussion) because they were submitted late, even though the BOFEPUSU constitution allows even for motions from the floor of Congress (special resolutions). They state that most of the motions sought to improve governance and administration of BOFEPUSU and for a review of BOFEPUSU constitution.

“The rejection of the motions illustrated how BOFEPUSU regards BOPEU’s contributions – that BOPEU’s contributions should be excluded at all costs.”  

Annual Audits – BOPEU says according to clauses 11.4.3.1 and 11.4.3.2 of the BOFEPUSU constitution the Secretary General is responsible for “preparation and circulation of financial annual report…and circulation of auditor’s report”. Clause 14.7 makes the carrying out of audits mandatory. BOFEPUSU Executive and secretariat failed to present to Congress Audited Financial Report (or at least Interim financials), in violation of its own constitution and of Section 42 of TUOEA. In addition to delegates’ calling for audited statements at Congress, BOPEU says it has written several letters to BOFEPUSU, in response to BOFEPUSU’s demands for funding, in which BOPEU sought explanation as to why BOFEPUSU cannot comply with the law and its own constitution with respect to auditing. No responses were received.

“It must be noted that Audited financials are required as a main component of Annual Returns to the Registrar of Trade Unions and are a valid ground for de-registration. The old Executive has admitted publicly that BOFEPUSU never carried out an Audit of its accounts since it was formed in 2008. As a result of BOFEPUSU’s continuous failure to account, BOPEU NoB, NEC and GC resolved to withhold monthly subscriptions to BOFEPUSU, to try to compel BOFEPUSU to account. BOPEU’s monthly subs amount to P28,000 pm or P336,000 per annum,” reads the BOPEU internal document.

“BOPEU delegates’ request for audited financials was regarded as a provocation or because “BOPEU is a sell-out”. There was and is still no remorse about failure to account and it seems the omission was deliberate,” concludes the report.

Minutes of 2012 Congress – The Secretary of the BOFEPUSU Executive also failed to submit minutes of 2012 Congress. Likewise, BOPEU delegates’ request for minutes was also regarded as a provocation or because BOEPU is a “sell-out”. Again, it seems the omission was deliberate and to date there is no official record of the 2012 Congress.

Eligibility of Union employees to hold positions on BOFEPUSU Executive: BOPEU delegates tried to raise the issue of whether union employees were eligible to stand for union political positions in the BOFEPUSU Executive, in light of Section 21 of the TUEOA. Again BOPEU’s raising of the issue was viewed as a provocation, especially of Manual Workers Union (MWU), which nominated four (4) of its employees into the Executive. Yet this issue has long term implications on the legality of BOFEPUSU itself, as currently more than half of the BOFEPUSU Executive are union employees. Section 21(1), (2) and (3) of TUEOA read thus;

“No person shall be admitted to membership of a trade union unless he is an employee in an industry with which the trade union is directly concerned. No employee of a trade union shall be admitted to membership of the trade union. Upon a member of a trade union becoming an employee of the trade union, he shall immediately cease to be a member of the trade union.

BOPEU argues that the majority of persons allowed to stand and who currently occupy positions in the BOFEPUSU Executive did not qualify to stand or to be elected. They poke at the eligibility of
Mr Johnson Pikinini Motshwarakgole – Secretary for Labour Affairs – Employee of MWU; Mr Samuel Molaodi – Secretary for Education Affairs – Employee of MWU;  Mr Simon Kgaoganang – Secretary for Gender and Women’s Affairs – Employee of MWU; Mr Johannes Tshukudu – President – Employee of BTU; and Mr Ketlhalefile Motshegwa – Deputy Secretary General – Employee of BLLAHWU.

BOPEU says since union employees are not employed in the industry with which the trade union is concerned (i.e. not workers) they are not eligible to be members and are precluded from paying membership/subscription fees. The above persons are not “members” or “officers” of the affiliate trade unions.  

“Ironically, the same reasoning was used to remove the BLLAHWU President from office (i.e. not paying subscription). Effectively this renders BOFEPUSU an unlawful organisation, saved only by Government’s (Registrar’s) inaction, whether deliberate or due to ignorance.

When this matter was raised at the 2015 Congress some of the above persons demonstrated that they are aware of the provisions of the law and the constitution. The prolonged illegality is therefore deliberate and self-serving.”

“Rather than being embroiled into a political and legal battle it is easier (and wiser) for BOPEU to disaffiliate rather than go through the legal and political battle with BOFEPUSU Executive. It is not worth it,” reads the leaked document.

BOPEU candidates’ nominations and Elections: BOPEU says at nomination time, there was a pattern of predetermined outcomes to reject all BOPEU nominations. BOPEU’s exclusion was also demonstrated in songs composed about BOPEU by delegates from other unions and a general hostile environment.

“The atmosphere was a clear, practical demonstration that BOPEU was unwanted in the family. The celebrations thereafter on social media of how BOPEU has been white washed also added to the confirmation of the attitude.”

Internal relations in the old BOFEPUSU Executive: According to BOPEU, prior to Congress there was a deliberate undermining of the then BOFEPUSU President (BOPEU VP) as an extension of BOPEU’s marginalisation. Some members of the BOFEPUSU Executive held official CEC meetings without her knowledge and participation. One such meeting held at Airport junction mall resolved to make a press release about BOFEPUSU’s endorsement of UDC. When she made a Press Release to correct the position the Secretary General made a counter statement.

“These CEC intra-conflicts also contributed to the current situation. The ‘apology’ by BOFEPUSU Secretary General at the 2014 Annual Convention did not address the fundamental issues  but just an appeal to let ‘bygones be bygones’. No attempt was made to reconcile differences. Instead in 2015 when similar differences have arisen, BOFEPUSU’s Secretary General expresses confidence that BOPEU Congress will agree with them. This kind of self-assurance takes BOPEU members for granted,” reads the internal communique.

Bargaining Council is another area of contention, which has brought irreconcilable difference, is the issue of membership of the Bargaining Council. BOPEU says when the term of office of the previous Council lapsed, BOPEU sought to have its members replaced.

“The view in BOPEU has been that this provided an opportunity to replace political officers with independent skilled negotiators who will have mandates but not vested interest, to reduce political controversy, which was bogging down progress in the Council. It also brought an opportunity to have Government team also replaced. However, BOFEPUSU negotiators wanted to maintain status quo. Their interpretation of the PSBC constitution coincided with that of the employer party,” BOPEU says.  

UNIGEM and other investments – Another cause of differences concerned UNIGEM, says BOPEU. UNIGEM was making losses in a row, at a time when the contract was coming to an end.

“By its own projections UNIGEM was projected to make an accumulated loss of P7m in over 5 years. Yet BOFEPUSU stated that UNIGEM was a profit making entity and spread malicious rumours that BOPEU was going to be given the tender alone as a reward for supporting for BDP in the 2014 elections, through a deal with a certain Mr Chitube, who was being prepared to be the next BDP President. Recently (November 2015) BTU stated the same issue in its annual report, that UNIGEM losses have affected the balance sheet of their investment arm, More Power Investments (Pty) Ltd. BTU was not accused of any BDP links despite holding the same view about UNIGEM as a loss-making entity,” reads the BOPEU document.

“Why was BOPEU expected to carry on with a loss making entity? On the hand BOPEU has not disinvested from BOTUSAFE, which is another joint venture with some BOFEPUSU affiliates, because it is making profit.”

Political affiliation – BOPEU says another source of irreconcilable difference is how each organisation handles the issue of political alignment and /or UDC endorsement. BOPEU says its position is based on a Convention resolution that the union should not align or affiliate to any political party. Though this position is reviewable by Convention or Congress it is binding on BOPEU Executive (NoB and NEC). Any BOPEU official who expresses this position is therefore speaking on behalf of all members.

“On the contrary the group, which now controls BOFEPUSU Executive, prefer that such decisions be regarded as operational rather than policy decisions. They held this same view before the Congress which they continue to maintain: that the issue of political alignment can be changed at any time. Yet they do not have a mandate from members giving them latitude to decide on such a matter,” reads the BOPEU document.

According to the document Clause 3 of BOFEPUSU constitution states that “Congress shall be the sole decision making body of the federation….every matter for consideration by Congress shall be on motion duly seconded…”. It is this very democratic procedure that the dominant group in BOFEPUSU Executive thwarted at the 2015 Congress by blocking BOPEU motions.

“While BOPEU believes that the issue of political alignment is a major policy decision that cannot be made by a few individuals on behalf of members, BOFEPUSU Executive believes that not only do they have a right to make that decision, they could also change it as many times as they wish. The least that BOFEPUSU could do is to refer this contentious issue to the General Council (GC). Thus, the Central Executive has abrogated itself the powers of both the GC and Congress.”

BOPEU says this is one of the main causes of irreconcilable difference between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU. “At the core is the issue of governance, of a federation leadership which believes it should make decisions on behalf of members versus an affiliate which is democratically controlled by members. Not only is conflict inevitable but will be endless.”

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Woman swindled out of P62 000 by fake CID officers

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Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.

According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.

“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.

The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.

Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.

“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’

They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.

In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.

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UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.

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The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.

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