Tension between employees and management threatens to tear apart Gabcon, a subsidiary of Botswana Railways and Transnet of South Africa. At the heart of the matter are protracted complaints by some Gabcon employees who fault their Managing Director (MD), Modise Koofhethile and his management team of neglecting them and listening only to his Personal Assistant.
Koofhethile denied the accusations, saying he has an open door policy. Employees complain in a letter seen by Botswana Guardian that morale is low at Gabcon as a result of the company’s subdued financial performance in the current year. In 2011, Gabcon is believed to have surpassed its financial target.
However, Botswana Guardian could not verify the claim as Gabcon is not a public company and its financial results could not be shared with third parties. “Operators have joined a union which they feel will help them address their issues because the MD has failed to assist them or protect them against management,” reads the letter which has not been signed.
Gabcon membership with Botswana Commercial and General Workers’ Union was not immediately available when Botswana Guardian tried to source it from Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU). However, employees’ main gripe is that both the MD and his managers do not have their interests at heart. Koofhethile is accused of promoting his Personal Assistant, Oratile Lebang, to the position of Project Manager.
“That’s a lie. There is no position of Project Manager,” charges Koofhethile. “I want to know who told you that.” However, an internal Memo seen by Botswana Guardian seems to betray his assertion. The Memo addressed to Gabcon staff on August 9, 2012 was conspicuously signed by Lebang, as Project Manager - Gabcon Container Management System (GCMS). Asked about the Memo and Lebang’s position, Koofhethile explained that the GCMS was a specific assignment given to Lebang.
“You see,” he notes, “we decide within the organisation who should do what – then you become a project manager,” he explains, albeit vaguely. “As a journalist, you are given this specific assignment to write on Gabcon, you are in charge of that, you are managing that,” he says, explaining further that Lebang’s role has not been changed by her new and seemingly temporary assignment.
However, employees, especially junior staff members who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed that Lebang is arguably the most powerful employee at Gabcon. “From her talk to us, she shows she is in full control,” a disgruntled Gabcon employee notes this week.
The letter seen by Botswana Guardian also explains Lebang’s superior responsibilities and apparent cases of favouratism. “She once failed an alcohol test and the testing machine was taken for calibration, a sign that the machine was faulty…” reads the letter.
Lebang refused to respond to Botswana Guardian questions, directing the matter to Koofhethile. Botswana Railways and Transnet have a joint venture with a partnership of 64 percent and 36 percent shareholding respectively in Gabcon.