Fireworks expected at BOPEU December congress

Nicholas Mokwena BG reporter
Monday, 05 November 2018
BOPEU President Masego Mogwera BOPEU President Masego Mogwera

With only five (5) weeks left before Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) elective congress, the union might find itself embroiled in a controversial congress in Kasane.

The congress is expected to be held from the 10th to the 13th of December this year, with two warring factions eyeing the leadership of the union, now unleashing war on each other by the pass of every week. One faction is led by BOPEU President Masego Mogwera while the other is led by Zibani Philemon, who has been tipped to challenge Mogwera for the presidency.

In July this year, Philemon was controversially appointed acting president at a Cresta Lodge meeting in Gaborone. The two warring factions have torn BOPEU into two since July in a power struggle that has culminated into legal battles.

The legal battle has pitted BOPEU as 1st Applicant followed by Ogaufi Masame, Zibani Philemon, Mosalagae Tlhako and Motswaledi Monaiwa against union President, Masego Mogwera as 1st Respondent followed by Tlhabologo Galekhutle (Treasurer), Martin Gabobake (1st Deputy President), Topias Marenga (General Secretary) and Ketlhapelang Karabo (Deputy General Secretary).

It has emerged this week that as the fight between the two continues, Mogwera has pulled the plug on her nemesis and slapped them with letters of disciplinary hearing.  The four members who were appointed interim as National Office Bearers (NOB) are said to have refused to appear before a three-member Commission on Disciplinary.

The other seven (7) have been given letters to show cause why disciplinary action cannot be taken against them. Eleven NEC members participated in the July meeting that suspended Mogwera and team. According to observers, this could cause more tension and members facing disciplinary hearing according to the Constitution would not be part of the December congress and would not contest any National Office Bearers (NOB) positions.

NOB is composed of the President, 1st Deputy President- Collective Bargaining, 2nd Deputy President- Gender and Human Rights, General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary and Treasurer General. According to Article 25.1.2 of the BOPEU Constitution to be eligible to hold office as NOB, a member shall have served at least one full term in Regional Executive Committee (REC) or any other national statutory structures of the union and also have been a member of the union in good standing for a period of not less than 4 years. 

Article 20.1.3 states, “to be eligible to be elected to the REC, a member shall have served in any other union structure for a period of not less than 3 years and shall have been a member of the union in good standing for a period of not less than 4 years”. This, according to some sources, means key NEC members who were serving in various regional committees are facing disciplinary action and could not be able to contest for NOB as the disciplinary process would not have been completed by the December congress this year.

The suspended members are also part of the two cases that were launched against Mogwera at the high court, which she won.  The remaining seven (7) members were written letters, dated 15th October 2018 referenced “Show cause why disciplinary action cannot be instituted and or taken against yourself.” 

The letters signed by Mogwera states, “You are hereby requested to show cause why disciplinary action cannot be taken and or instituted against you in respect of allegations of serious misconduct levelled against you. It is alleged that on or about 28th of July 2018, at Cresta Lodge acting in concert with other members of the National Executive Committee, you purported to have continued with an adjourned meeting of the NEC without any lawful authority.”

It is further alleged that the members signed, without authority, a power of attorney instructing an attorney to institute legal proceeding in the name of BOPEU against President Masego Mogwera Tlhabologo Galekhutle (Treasurer), Martin Gabobake (1st Deputy President), Topias Marenga (General Secretary) and Ketlhapelang Karabo (Deputy General Secretary) of BOPEU.

“It is alleged that you knowingly signed the power of attorney despite being aware that you possess no authority and or power to do that. It is further alleged that you participated in an illegal meeting which purportedly suspended the president, 1st Deputy President, General Secretary, Treasurer General, and Deputy General Secretary of BOPEU. On this basis, it is alleged that you are working against the interests of the union.

The purported resolutions of the illegal meeting are annexed hereunder for ease of reference.” Mogwera further asks the affected NEC members to show cause within seven days of service of the letters. When contacted, Philemon who is leading the pack of the suspended members and has been linked to challenging Mogwera said any member who qualifies is eligible to contest.

He would not want to be drawn into discussing the union matters with the press. He has however indicated that he heard about letters of disciplinary hearing but he has not been served. According to Philemon, it is not his job to continue fighting the leadership of the union but it is up to members of the union to stand up for their rights and protect the union they have worked so hard to build.

“It is now time for the membership to rise to the occasion. If they believe something is not right they have to seek answers. This is not about Philemon, it is about the union and its legacy,” he said.For her part, Mogwera rubbished claims that she is trying to purge people who want to challenge her. She explained that the union has a membership of 35 000 and the congress would be attended by 500 delegates.

Mogwera revealed that just because people have been suspended, they should not think there are no capable BOPEU members who can contest in the December congress, adding that this would be taking BOPEU members for granted. She has however confirmed that the seven NEC members have received their letters. 

“As for the four who once instituted a case against me they are playing hide and seek to come for disciplinary hearing. We will however give them time and allow the work of the commission to go on uninterrupted. The 11 members were found to have acted grossly by a commission of inquiry in the July meeting.

The commission was made up of two lawyers and an honorary member of BOPEU,” said Mogwera. She said BOPEU members know exactly what is going on as they have been briefed during the various regional congresses that have been held. She is optimistic of a calm and successful congress.

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