Former National Coordinator for the embattled Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC), Goitse Mpolokang has spoken out about a filthy mess at the organisation which has led to government seeking to dissolve the organisation.
He placed at the centre of the controversy, the contentious security organ, the Directorate of Intelligence Security Services (DISS), the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party in an untidy state of affairs at the organisation which is now facing extinction, unless the High Court intervenes.
Mpolokang spoke to this publication in an exclusive interview following the victorious High Court ruling against his former employer who unlawfully dismissed him from work in 2012. The former National Coordinator had been at logger heads with the BNYC and its board after resisting attempts of maladministration in the organisation. “The board wanted to use BNYC to advance personal and political gains for the ruling party,” he said. “I resisted that because I wanted things to be done correctly.”
He told this publication that when it became clear that there were people like him in the organisation who wanted to object to the status quo, in favour of good governance, plans were orchestrated to toss them out. “Because of my stand as somebody who wanted things to be done in a proper manner, I was perceived as an obstacle,” he added. “They even thought I was influencing the other structures of the BNYC.”
In 2012, reports became rife in the media that Mpolokang had been involved in elections’ improper conduct. Mpolokang was accused of taking sides at the election of executive committee members.
BNYC then announced the organisation was undergoing a restructuring exercise in which assurance was made that despite the exercise, no employee was going to lose his job. However, following the restructuring exercise Mpolokang and four others were told that their employment was terminated since the posts which they previously held were phased out.
In the letter dated 2nd February 2012, the former National Coordinator was told that his contract will be terminated within 30 days, a decision he challenged at the Department of Labour and won. BNYC was charged P500 for contravening the employment law.
Mpolokang was then restored to the organisation in a new post as Events Officer, reporting directly to the Executive Director. The Department of Labour also ruled that no employee of BNYC should be dismissed from work for that year’s financial year on the basis of restructuring or financial constraints.
A few months later, BNYC attempted another restructuring exercise that was halted by an urgent application before the Industrial Court by Mpolokang and other affected employees. A settlement agreement was reached in which BNYC undertook not to proceed with the retrenchment exercise.
However, subsequent to the Industrial Court order of the 15th of August 2012, BNYC employees individually received on the 26th of September 2012 letters terminating their contracts of employment with immediate effect. On that fateful day, Mpolokang remembers that BNYC Acting Executive Director, Tiny Tamasiga-Gontse who was in-charge of the organisation in place of then suspended Benjamin Raletsatsi ordered them to vacate immediately, the premises along with their personal possessions.
When they objected to being treated unfairly, and appealed for more time to remove their personal stuff from computers, DIS stormed in and confiscated computers. Mpolokang with four others were then thrown out of the premises. “We were surprised because we were being treated like criminals, yet we were employees and court had ruled in our favour,” recalled Mpolokang.
On the day the quartet was dismissed, the then Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture was to address a staff meeting at BNYC head office. “Because they did not want us to be part of the meeting, we were swiftly called at lunch time and informed about our dismissal from work,” stated Mpolokang. “We were then ordered to leave the premises immediately and removed by the DIS without any further engagement with management.”
Mpolokang and Tipati Gutcha who challenged their dismissal emerged victorious when High Court Judge Dr Zein Kebonang ruled in their favour last week. Judge Kebonang said that BNYC’s position that they were entitled to terminate the employees’ contracts at will and for no reason at all, was in his view untenable. “Just cause requires that there must be a fair and honest cause or reasons for terminating an employment contract,” he stated. “In my view, the termination of one’s employment at will, without any basis, lacks good faith and amount to a less favourable treatment.”
Judge Kebonang also ordered that BNYC pays the applicants the balance of their contracts as damages. “This is what they would have contractually been entitled to receive but for the termination and I accordingly so order,” ruled Kebonang.
Mpolokang revealed that the latest events at BNYC are as a result of greediness from the ruling party and their associates. “It is clear that BDP wants to use BNYC as a training ground for its cadres,” he said. “They want each and every structure of the BNYC to be controlled by BDP faithfuls.”
The former BNYC National Coordinator also opined that BNYC was used for looting and excessive corruption for the few individuals, therefore undermining its core mandate as a youth advocating organisation. “They felt it was infiltrated by the members of the opposition, hence they want to destroy it,” he added. “I think it is best youth form a new organisation which will affiliate with other international organisations.”
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.