We condemn a move by some individuals who claim to be members of the Botswana Mine Workers Union (the BMWU) for spreading allegations which are entirely false and directed at leaders of the BMWU without giving persons being accused a chance to answer back negative things being said about them. The article expressed extreme bias against the integrity of Mr. Jack Tlhagale, the President of the BMWU in particular and cast disparaging aspersions about the legitimacy of the National Executive Committee (NEC) leadership in general. We wish to express our disappointment - on behalf of the leadership and the BMWU family – about the unethical manner in which the newspaper chose to promote unwarranted attack on the leadership by putting in the public domain grossly distorted facts and not caring at all to hear the other side. This conduct is by any stretch of imagination unfair because it created opportunity to individuals who masqueraded as concerned branch leaders to undermine a democratically elected leadership without good cause.
The article is every bit false as it is irresponsible. This we shall show as we proceed in reaction to the lies levelled against us to set the record straight for benefit of the BMWU members and the public.
Badira Khumo Investments (Pty) Limited
A resolution to establish an Investment arm of the BMWU was taken at the 2015 delegates Congress held at Oasis Motel in Tlokweng as part of the strategic plan to transform the Union economically. It should be noted that the Congress is the supreme authority of the union. And its resolutions have to be implemented by the General Council (the GC) before next Congress. In 2016 the GC of the Union held at Hotel Stone House in Selebi Phikwe mandated that bench marking in search of a viable business model which would serve both the members and the Union better be conducted. The aim being to implement an income generating venture which would do business and reduce over reliance on membership subscriptions in line with the Congress resolution. It is believed this would further enable the Union to meet the financial commitments associated with service provision to members. The Council elected an interim Board of Directors of a holding company called Badira Khumo Investments (PTY) limited which was registered on 4 February 2015 with the Registrar of companies. The President of the Union Jack Tlhagale was elected together with other four Board members from amongst the GC members to locate a robust investment model from successful unions.
The interim board visited investments ventures at the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), National Union of Mine workers in South Africa (NUM) and Mine Workers Union of Namibia (MUN). The recommended a common business model used by the three unions visited which model was originated by the NUM. This model was later unanimously adopted by the General Council during a council meeting of 19 November, 2016 at Hotel Selebi in Phikwe.
Our submission is that formation of the business arm has a long history and it is not being done because the President is due to leave as alleged. The claim that Jack Tlhagale, the President is involved in Badira Khumo because he wants to be its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) lacks foresight. In any event a competent president should drive strategy and economic growth of his organization rather than sit and wait for his tenure to finish. Again, issues and decisions in respect of Badira Khumo Investment drive have been addressed through established Union structures in a transparent manner and those who tried to sabotage were defeated democratically in the GC meetings. At present there are 4 Boards of Directors with a combined total of 20 Directors elected from across the NEC and Branch members with a mandate to preside over the affairs of the 4 subsidiary businesses of the holding company, namely; MineMerch which is to do business by trading in all sorts of merchandise, MineProp to do investment in property, BaMeepo Financial Services company to trade in money matters and the Minewelfare which is business to look after the funeral needs of members.
Therefore, any fear that Mr. Jack Tlhagale, can appoint himself as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Badira Khumo Investments (PTY) limited is mischievous and undermines intelligence of the GC members. This investment arm is to be administered and managed by a team of professionals with requisite financial background appointed by the GC a body in which every branch is represented.
The reality is that the President’s departure from the Union by end of his term is adequately provided for with clear restrictions in the BMWU Constitution which provisions shall be upheld.
Who decides salaries?
There is a set of spurious allegations which suggests, first, that the President’s Salary is over P48 000; second, that the President, General Secretary and National Treasurer determine their own salaries and those of staff members; third, that all the National Executive Committee (NEC) members referred to as Executive Committee in the article are illegitimate and are not eligible to be leaders of the Union because they are not working for any mining company.
We submit that salaries or pay structure of full time political officers (President, General Secretary and National Treasurer) of the BMWU were determined by the General Council in December 2006 based on findings of a 4 men Task Team commissioned by the GC which did a survey of pay structures of comparable Trade Unions in the Region. To suggest that Jack Tlhagale, President earn a basic salary over P48 000.00 is grossly incorrect and can only serve the evil intentions of the authors as all the salaried NEC office bearers earn far below that amount.
The other leg of the allegation on salaries is a false claim that President, General Secretary and National Treasurer ‘’are responsible for determining the salaries of staff members” of the Union. This is denied. The truth is that pay structures of staff were configured by the LCM Consultants of the Management & Business Consultants (Pty) Limited a Company that was owned by the late Mr. Joseph Lisindi in November 2003. They conducted a market survey of comparable companies’ pay structures during the Organisational Re-Engineering of the BMWU Systems in that year. It is worth noting that, appointments and salary ranges are a prerogative of the GC which is entitled to adjust them on an ongoing basis depending on the need at any point in time and have nothing to do with either the General Secretary, National Treasurer or President.
We add that the Trade Unions and Employers Organisations’ Act entitles a member or members of a Union to inspect books of accounts and other records of the Union to inform themselves properly so that they can be able to speak accurately about the affairs of the BMWU. Of course, this may not attract interest of those who purport to be leaders as in the prevailing scheme but have been thrown out of office and condemned by members at their branches because their level of dishonesty and indiscipline is found to be too high.
Legitimacy of NEC
In their attempt to tarnish images of the current BMWU NEC office bearers the so called “isolated” branch leaders - of whom we know are not current leaders – who are alleged to be at Jwaneng and Orapa branches of the Union claimed that current NEC members are illegitimate or not eligible to hold office because they are not working for any mining company and not paying subscriptions. This accusation is most unfortunate as it runs contrary to the law and the International Labour Convention (ILO) C87 on the right of Union members to join a union of their choice and to be free to choose their leaders without interference or hindrance from public or private authorities.
We do not intend to clutch at straws as did our abusers but to confirm that indeed the current NEC members are all legitimate as they were nominated with no objection to any of their nominations and duly elected during the 2015 statutory delegates Congress held at Oasis Motel in Tlokweng. The writers are advised to refer to the judgement of his Lordship Justice Gaongalwe J in case no: MAHLB – 000512 – 05 (Christopher Molelo & 23 others) in regard to position of the law on this matter which came to the fore when this issue was brought before the High Court of Botswana. In summary, the Court held that Section 21(2) of the Trade Unions and Employers’ Organisations Act which required one to be employed by a company under which the union operates or is recognised is no longer the applicable law as this section was repealed in the year 2004. The court further concluded that “the requirement of paying subscriptions does not apply to members of the National Executive Committee”.
Perhaps it is worthwhile to comment on “….there is no knowledge of how a trade union should operate and Tlhagale has used this to his advantage……the General Council that gets voted at elective congress is always new to trade unionism……”. This is a clear manifestation of how disrespectful the “purported questioning branch leaders” are to the NEC leadership and office bearers of other branches. But contrary to their claim of having superior knowledge of trade unionism it is apparent from their own baseless and juvenile accusations that they themselves are divisive therefore utterly ignorant.
In their erratic style the accusers now allege that the BMWU has not been audited for about 20 years, this said in a brusque way. We presume they were referring to financial audits. It is submitted that the BMWU books of accounts are audited annually by Mazars Certified Auditors and audited financial reports shared with the GC. At the moment the year 2018 audit is about to be completed. This is the only truth which is verifiable on record.
In their deceptive fashion the Accusers’ ulterior motive is revealed in the closing paragraph as they shed crocodile tears on victims of the ill-fated BCL Closure. In their own words, “….government has repeatedly told the former BCL workers that they are not entitled to terminal benefits because the mine was liquidated…..”. True and genuine leaders cannot be seen to be promoting government’s refusal to pay their colleagues for unfair loss of jobs. It is clear that government’s stance to frustrate union efforts is seen as something worthy of praise by these assailants. This is why their “Tlhagale’s firm grip on BMWU” fails not only as malicious but as deliberately seeking to confuse our members on whom their true leaders are.
Mbiganyi Moffat Ramokate
Salumba Jack Tlhagale