BOPEU, Tswaipe fallout was long coming

Kemoreilwe Jimson - BG reporter
Friday, 21 October 2016
BOPEU, Tswaipe fallout was long coming

The recent firing of Edward Tswaipe, by Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) as Head of Department, Education and Capacity Building, is said to be a plan that the leadership of the Union has been hatching for a long time. 

While the union attributes Tswaipe’s dismissal to ‘Serious Misconduct’, BG News is reliably informed that the pair has been navigating a thorny relationship and that the union’s leadership has always sought an excuse to get rid of Tswaipe. The fallout between Tswaipe and his employer is that, he was always questioning some of the decisions taken by the union leadership particularly on staff recruitment and promotion. “When we went for union elections last year, Tswaipe was one of the people who were behind the campaign for union president, Andrew Motsamai to be re-elected. This was done because we wanted to prevent Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) to take control of the union and interfere in our affairs,” said the source.

It is said the tension between Tswaipe and his employer started this year when he questioned decisions on staff recruitment and promotions and the delay to open the labour college at the African Mall. “The president was always asking him why he is delaying the official launch of the school. Motsamai (Andrew) felt Tswaipe is trying to steal the limelight from him,” said an insider who did not want to be named. Initially the school was supposed to have been launched last year in September but was postponed to this year as they were still waiting for accreditation from Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA).  The Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi was supposed to launch it. Motsamai refused to comment when approached saying he could not discuss employer and employee issues with the media. He denied that they have fired Tswaipe saying his disciplinary hearing is still ongoing.

When trouble started for Tswaipe two months ago, he rushed to court on an urgent application to interdict the disciplinary hearing against him. But Industrial court Judge, Vigil Vergeer, dismissed his application saying Tswaipe failed to demonstrate the urgency and also failed to show a clear right in the case. “Comrade Tswaipe is not a yes man and he has on several occasions declined to take orders from the union leadership. He was questioning high expenditure of the union leadership,” said the source. In his defence Tswaipe argued that a Secretary General couldn’t institute a disciplinary hearing because he is a specified employee and that the authority lies with the National Executive Committee (NEC). But the court dismissed his arguments saying he is not a specified employee.
It is said Tswaipe in a Facebook page called, “Strategy Room” revealed some confidential information about the union.

“I was always told gore Molale, Carter, etc gaba ganediwe. I differed with them openly, until I left the public service. I even wrote articles in press. I was not fired. I resigned voluntarily. At Kasane retreat I was told gore Motsamai ga a rate go buiwa ka issue ya PR, but I did and even banged the table that BOPEU MUST have a PR function. After he stormed out of the room one colleague said I must apologize because I was new to BOPEU. I said I will not apologize. I’m fighting to say eventually it was adopted into new strategic plan,” reads part of the snippets Tswaipe wrote on the Facebook page.

He also writes, “Nna it hurts me since coming to BOPEU. You use your capacity very sub-optimally. I once said to my colleague Disho that at TAWU we knew that big unions cannot use their resources optimally and we used to capitalize and move quicker. She laughed at me scornfully because she said oh TAWU with less than 1000 members. But we had position papers reaching OP. One of them is being implemented on the split of MOESD, O&M, which was the authoritative policy position of Govt then. Eventually we shaped Govt policy in our direction. That is how advocacy works. We also shaped the takeover of Brigades, challenge BTEP and decided what happens to staff leaving Lobatse College when it was closing down. We stopped sale of Tlokweng Brigade to a South African private university. BOPEU could be running this country if it used that approach. If a small union like TAWU could do so many things.”

The union is believed to be eyeing some people to replace Tswaipe as head of labour college. But the fear among the union leadership is that they have to find someone who will be a game changer because Tswaipe was the right candidate for the job. “I don’t think it will be possible for us to find someone like comrade Tswaipe. The guy has done a lot for the college and it was going to bring a lot of fortune for the union,” said the insider.  The decision to set up the college was taken at a congress in 2012. “The delay to launch the college leadership is thought to be a failure on Tswaipe’s part,” said the source.

Botswana Guardian understands that the following are being eyed to replace Tswaipe.
Ogaufi Masame: Currently the second Deputy President at the union and lecturer at Gaborone Technical College. The problem with her being appointed is that her husband is currently the Human Resource Manager at Babereki Investments. “Leadership is having a tough time to appoint her because of this,” said a source.

Ibo Kenosi: Former Secretary at Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and a close friend to the union leader, Motsamai. It is alleged he is the best person to protect the interest of Motsamai. He has Diploma in Primary Education.
Tshiamo Salona: He has Degree in Adult Education and has worked in the department for quite some time.  His knowledge of trade unionism is not extensive enough. He was one of the persons interviewed for the post previously before it was given to Tswaipe.
The union President, Motsamai refused to comment on Tswaipe’s replacement saying as far as he knows the veteran unionist is still their employee. “We do not have a candidate at the moment because his hearing is still ongoing,” said Motsamai. Tswaipe was not available for comment as his mobile phone rang unanswered.
However sources say he is planning to appeal his dismissal.

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