The Secretary General (SG) the Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Tobokani Rari, stands accused of unlawfully and fraudulently altering the constitution in order to benefit himself.
Describing themselves as educators and members in good standing of BOSETU Tshetsana Motsatsing, Namwaka Lucy Shamukuni, Carthage Tony Kenosi and Mathews Masole have instructed Rockfall Lekgowe Law Group to institute legal proceedings against Rari as 1st defendant, BOSETU president Winston Radikolo as 2nd defendant, the union itself as 3rd defendant and the Registrar of Trade Unions as 4th defendant.
They also accuse Rari of overstaying his welcome. In papers filed before the Gaborone High Court, the four want the court to declare the actions of the 1st defendant unlawful and fraudulent, removal of the original wording of Clause 17 limiting the Secretary General’s term to two years unconstitutional and a fraud, the original wording Clause 17 reinstated, and costs of suit on attorney client scale as well as further and/or alternative relief.
According to documents supporting the suit, at a 2008 BOSETU congress, the union resolved that the term of office of the Secretary General be restricted to two terms. At a special congress in 2013 called by BOSETU for constitutional amendments and approved constitutional amendments it was once again agreed that the tenure of office for the Secretary General be limited to two terms.
“Clause 17. 3.11 of the 2011 constitution which was duly registered with the Registrar read as follows; that if and when the Secretary General is seconded to the Union on a permanent basis, s/he may only serve for terms of the office consecutively,” the document points out.
According to the four, the clause restricting the term of office was thereafter replaced with a clause which provided for dissemination of the Special Congress minutes. The matter was brought to the attention of Rari and it was resolved that he correct the particular clause before submitting the proposed amendments to the Registrar of Trade Unions.
“Constitutional amendments are important, sensitive and contentious matters as they involve issues of national importance,” they assert. “The 3rd defendant has a membership which spans across the country and the 1st defendant had to be alive to this fact and should have acted as mandated by congress.”
Radikolo is the 2nd defendant. In a letter attached to the lawsuit dated 20th January 2021, he responded to a petition filed by the plaintiffs stating that there had never been a unilateral amendment of the BOSETU constitution.
In the letter, Radikolo said the current constitution had started off as draft and was adopted by a resolution of congress during a special delegate congress in 2013. It was this constitution that was thereafter submitted and accepted by the Registrar of Trade Unions in terms of the law after its adoption by congress in 2013 and it is currently in use.
“Indeed, in the previous constitution of BOSETU, there existed term limits in the office of Secretary General, but the draft that was adopted by Congress and subsequently registered did not contain any term limits,” he argues. “It is in accordance with that Constitution that the current Secretary General currently holds office and nothing about his occupation or holding of office is unlawful. It is therefore on a purely mistaken basis that you assume that the Secretary General’s term of office has expired.”
Now in his fourth term, Rari has been at the helm of BOSETU as Secretary General since 2011. “It’s a welcome development that they have approached courts so that this issue could be settled once and for all,” Rari’s lawyers said when asked about the matter.
They further added that this issue comes from far and some have used it as a political tool to decampaign the current SG and have failed. “As far as we know the 2011 constitution was amended in 2013 and authenticated by the registrar in 2014. The constitition being used now passed through different conferences and congresses thereafter and none such issues as removing of a clause was ever raised by these bodies. In fact the current constitution has been used during the 2014 elections, 2017 elections and the 2021 elections,” they responded