Investigations by The Business Weekly & Review have shown that the fight for control of Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), which ensued in June 2017 immediately after the recently restored president Masego Mogwera to ascended to the throne, has so far cost approximately P2.6 million.
As the factional wars intensified, ttey pitted Olefile Monakwe and Mogwera and her lot with each of them believing they were legitimate office bearers at BOPEU.
Sadly, the truth of the matter is that the fight which was mainly through the courts of law has had an impact on the union’s financials’ because the Monakwe led faction is said to have utilised monies belonging to the union. This rather sorrowful tale was even condemned by the High Court Judge Mercy Garekwe in her May 7 judgement which nullified the decision by the union to oust Mogwera.
In her rebuking the behaviour to spend large sums in legal fees disregarding the real owners of the money, the Lobatse High Court Judge termed the behaviour “reckless”.
“Before I conclude, I am greatly concerned by the number of cases being registered by the same parties which cases have serious financial implications on the purse of the 2nd respondent (BOPEU),” said Judge Garekwe. “Put differently, the parties who have time and again been coming to Court at the slightest opportunity do so not at their expense but the expense of the members of BOPEU.”
The Business Weekly & Review is reliably informed that throughout the marathon legal warfare over 12 cases where registered with the courts. It is reported that legal fees for an urgent application are around P250 000 per case, and this is just how much the BOPEU members lost in the process.
Asked about the legal fees, Mogwera told The Business Weekly & Review that: “I foot my own legal fees.”
During an interview that sought to establish the real facts behind the fog in the aftermath of such an unpalatable scuffle, the union president conceded that the legal costs depleted resources even suggesting that the union “can no longer pay legal fees to represent (its) members.”
She told this publication that the effects of the whole saga has been that the current BOPEU has lost credibility amongst its members and several other stakeholders. She further said the reputation of the union was in the process dented.
Further pressed on what it will take for peace to prevail within the union she replied thus “It just needs sanity and honesty to members because everything happening is affecting BOPEU members and its stakeholders.”
BOPEU boast of over 35 000 members organised throughout various government departments and ministries. Close sources say the union makes P2.6 million a month and over P70 million in a year, money which is tax free. These are funds used to finance BOPEU operations and the wage bill, according to those in the know.
Even so, The Business Weekly understands that the BOPEU main account at Standard Chartered took a knock at the height of the fight for the soul of the union. Those close to the action say the account does not have much.
This is the account that is used for operational costs and the BOPEU wage bill.
Apparently, the strike fund, money that is meant to cushion members in case of strikes, has since been depleted, sources said.
Recently, Court of Appeal (CoA) Judge Isaac Lesetedi turned down an application by the Monakwe led union appealing the decision to have Mogwera restored.
“It is quite evident that what is uppermost in each faction’s mind is immediate control of the union and once the control is lost, purported urgency becomes the tool to fight for restoration of such control,” said Justice Lesetedi.
Finally, the challenge now is who gets to control the union Standard Chartered account, understood to be the union’ main account amongst the 3-4 which it has. And as the old English proverb said; “the more things change the more they remain the same.”
Just when spectators thought the Armageddon was grinding to a halt, Monakwe’s faction struck again when it authored a letter that called for truce. In the letter, the National Executive Committee (NEC) recognised the courts decisions and promised to deploy internal peace keeping mechanisms in future. However, this would not settle well with Mogwera who later released a counter statement disregarding the earlier one.
This publication’s efforts to reach Monakwe hit a snag since last week when he promised to revert after questions were sent to his mobile through WhatsApp. The Business Weekly could not establish the number of members the union lost in the aftermath, but it is understood scores of union members are disgruntled over the state of affairs at the union.