The fight for the control of one of the country’s successful trade unions-Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU)-has been fingered as the main reason why the union’s president Shandukani Hlabano would not be seeking a reelection at the union’s upcoming congress later this year, inside sources have said.
While BOSETU president is quick to dismiss reports of bitter infighting between the union executive members’ sources this week told this newspaper that the fight for the control of the union has got so nasty that the union leadership is divided into two factions; one pro Hlabano and the other one against him. Several sources this week told Botswana Guardian that Hlabano's decision not to seek reelection was a result of bitter fallout between the union leader and some executive committee members.
The executive members against Hlabano are said to be his long time political foes that did not support him at the union’s election in Mmadinare in 2011. The fallout is said to be so bitter that at one point in 2013 he resigned from the presidency only to be persuaded by the same executive committee to withdraw his resignation. The members according to sources have accused Hlabano of being dictatorial and oppressive and that he doesn’t tolerate dissent. The members also accused Hlabano of neglecting the union activities and running with other activities outside the union. As a result the aggrieved members are alleged to have made life difficult for Hlabano. “The faction has made it difficult for Hlabano to chair board proceedings as they disrupt and heckle him. As a result he resigned in 2013 because he felt that he could no longer take the abuse and disrespect from the board members.
Following his resignation the board panicked as they knew that there was going to be an outcry from the membership and grudgingly asked him to stay,” said a source close to the events in BOSETU. Fed up with the infighting and attempts to undermine his leadership, Hlabano announced late last year (2013) that he was not going to seek re-election to the surprise of some BOSETU members. It is said the anti-Hlabano faction is planning to purge more members from the executive committee who are aligned to the outgoing president. This week Hlabano refuted allegations that he was leaving BOSETU because he was frustrated by some of his executive committee members. He said that he is leaving the union on his own volition after serving two terms in office. “While it is true that we don’t have term limits, I felt that it is time to give others a chance. I have done my part.” He said allegations that he was pushed are attempts by some to besmirch him. He was not aware of any bad blood between him and some executive members but added, “…but again as a leader you cannot please everyone. Allegations that I am a dictator are baseless. All I know is that I am firm and against incidents of corruption within the union.
I have in the past refused to sign some questionable claims by some [executive committee] members. But this does not mean that I am a dictator.” He also refuted allegations that he resigned from the presidency post only to retract his resignation letter, adding that the news of his 2013 resignation was new to him. He said the fact that he announced his decision not to seek reelection several months before the congress may have given the people the impression that he was pushed. “The idea behind the announcement was to give the union an ample time to come up with a clear succession plan.”