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Public Unions at loggerhead

MOTSHWARAKGOLE: We will be opening police file

A three-months long conflict at the Botswana Public Officer’s Pension Fund (BPOPF) over the appointment of the new board of trustees has reached a boiling point and the fund’s acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has been threatened with a criminal charge and a legal suit as the new board tries to stop her from funding the legal battles through the worker’s fund.


The board has not convened since the court battles started in September this year and the Fund’s Chief Executive Officer, Lesedi Moakofi has run to court for help and has not succeeded so far.


Moakofi, who this week took the country’s employee unions to court  due to dissatisfaction in regards to the election process of the new board has been warned by the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) lawyer, Mboki Chilisa that she would pay every single Thebe she gets from the Fund to finance the court case.


“The above are deeply concerned that you continue to engage in litigation in the courts of law, at the expense of the fund without requisite authorisation of the Fund’s Board of Trustees. This letter serves to place you on notice that should any money be disbursed from the fund as a result of your unauthorised acts, we shall be instituting proceedings at the instance of members of the fund for recovery of same from you,” Chilisa notified Moakofi of their intention.


The letter was written this week and a day before the case was heard before Justice David Newman of the Gaborone High court.


Meanwhile Johnson Motshwarakgole of BOFEPUSU told the court of their intention to report Moakofi to the Police as they believe she was fraudulently using the fund to finance her personal interests.


“This dishonesty on the part of the deponent is a further basis upon which the court must order her to pay the costs of this application personally. It would be most unfair to the Fund’s members to have to foot the costs of such a frivolous application that lacks integrity, candour and honesty. We are in the process of lodging a complaint with the Botswana Police and the Non Banking Financial Regulatory Authority against the deponent for perjury,” Motshwarakgole stated in the answering affidavit.


In fact the non-banking financial regulatory authority has already been notified of the intended action.


Justice Newman, dismissed the urgent application and referred the matter to Justice Tshepo Motswagole who had heard a similar matter earlier.


The reason as to why the union wants the cost to be ordered personally against the CEO is that none of the newly appointed trustees have authorised her to institute the current processing and in the absence of these trustees, there is no quorum and “she is therefore on a frolic of her own.”


According to the Union, the issue of whether employee representation has been properly appointed must be litigated by the recognised employee associations and an issue in respect of which the Fund should not take sides.


Nonetheless, Moakofi who lost the urgent application on Thursday this week, maintains that the elections of the board of trustees from the union side was done done correctly as some of the unions were not represented.


According to her, the Fund wants all unions to be included in the voting process which ultimately will decide which members sit in the board.


“The board cannot currently function due to the fact that the composition of the board is incomplete and this issue needs to be addressed as one of utmost urgency as urgent decisions need to be made about the placement of investments and other issues,” Moakofi contended before court.


However Justice Newman disagreed and ruled that the matter was not urgent and that it has to be heard by justice Motswagole as a similar matter was brought before him in September this year.
The initial case before Motswagole was filed by the National Amalgamated Local Central Government and Parastatal Worker’s Union which wanted to organise a ballot of all unions who have representation on the board in terms of the rules of the Fund.


The parties that were cited eventually settled the matter, signed a settlement agreement and obtained a court order to that effect.  A few weeks later, two Unions, BOTASA and TAWU moved an urgent application before Justice Lackvinder Walia complaining that they had not been given an opportunity to respond to the original application and to participate in the voting process. The application was dismissed with costs.


“Despite this, these and other unions have raised concerns about their exclusion and it is this internal and constant disagreement, which the applicant (Fund) has had to come to court to seek redress on the actual parties allowed to participate in the voting process,” Moakofi further stated.


Nonetheless, the other unions maintain that the election process was inclusive of all recognised and registered unions and that the elected board was legal.

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