Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) factional wars in the build-up to 2015 Elective General Congress have resurfaced ahead of this year’s elective congress in December.
The 2015 congress that ushered in the current leadership being National Executive Committee (NEC) and National Office Bearers (NOB) was marred by controversy. The controversy is once again playing out in the open as divisions within the leadership became apparent at the past weekend meeting which resulted in suspensions of some members including President Masego Mogwera and counter suspensions of other members by Mogwera.
Sources say the bitter war emanates from jostling as factions position themselves for the congress where they will go head to head in a battle for control of the union.
In a heated meeting which resulted in some members of the NEC walking out, the committee resolved to suspend five of its office bearers being Mogwera, first deputy president Martin Gabobake, General Secretary Topias Marenga, Deputy Secretary Kethapeleng Karabo and Treasurer General Aba Gabaikhe for failure to observe Articles 53.1 and 53.2 respectively.
The articles speak of secondment and remuneration of office bearers (president and treasurer general) as well as sanctioning the implementation of the new BOPEU structure. The NEC has since resolved to appoint Philemon Zibani as the interim president, Ogaufi Masame as First Deputy President and Mosalagae Tlhako as Treasurer General pending investigations. Mogwera’s team has also in turn declared a state of emergency and suspended Zibani and crew.
Zibani has however indicated that they could not be suspended by people who are on suspension. A stalemate has been reached by the two groups over who is at the helm of the union- a stalemate which even the police failed to break. This resulted in Zibani’s team on Tuesday night serving their colleagues with court papers in which they want a court order removing them from office.
According to sources, the power struggle started when a consultant was engaged to review BOPEU’s organisational structure. Mogwera and team are accused of implementing the secondment of the president and treasurer general without approval of NEC and implementing a new pay structure which is now a centre of controversy following a decision taken to reverse the pay structure.
The reversal comes after eight months of implementation. Botswana Guardian has it on good authority that last week some employees received letters stating that their salaries would be reversed to the ones used before the implementation of the new structure in November last year. The employees are now contemplating taking BOPEU to court over the matter.
Mogwera has maintained that they are aware of attempts to remove them from office and replace them with yes men and women to frustrate efforts by her committee to recover BOPEU assets. She said there are outside forces that want to interfere in their fight against financial impropriety and corruption at the union of choice as BOPEU is affectionately known.
It remains to be seen how things will play out in the build-up to the Palapye congress. Zibani’s team is said to be prepared and hell-bent on removing Mogwera’s team from office come December. The team alleges there has been embezzlement of the union funds and stalling of the release of the forensic audit which was sanctioned about eight months ago. They have also taken war to the current treasurer general for allegedly failing to produce audited financial report.
Mogwera became BOPEU President after the then President Andrew Motsamai resigned to join Babereki Investment, the BOPEU business arm as Executive Chairman. He was later relieved of his duties on allegations of misappropriation of funds.
Motsamai beat his former Vice President Sikalesele Seitiso in a tightly contested election, garnering 220 votes against 146 during the 2015 Palapye congress. Mogwera was voted First Vice President getting 220 votes against Tlotlang Bakoko who got 145 votes.