Tensions are rising ahead of the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) elective congress that takes place in Palapye from Wednesday. BTU President Johannes Tshukudu, who is seeking a re-election, is facing a stiff challenge from his deputy, Kenathata Dipogiso. The race for the BTU presidency is said to have started immediately after the Mmadinare special congress in which the two were elected President and Deputy President respectively. Early this year the political chicanery within BTU played itself out in public when Tshukudu, who is also Botswana Federation of Public Service Union (BOFEPUSU), was transferred from his post at Tlokweng College of Education to Ministry of Transport and Communication while their Treasurer was transferred to the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. As striking events unfold with increasing intensity, spurred on by growing belief that Dipogiso’s camp was behind the transfers, the two leaders are allegedly not seeing eye to eye. The Tshukudu camp – which later won the case at the High Court when Department of Public Service Management was asked to consult Tshukudu first before initiating his transfer – felt that Dipogiso was in cohort with government. The two leaders are said to be commanding a lot of following within the union and the contest between the two will be very close and nail biting.
He was elected BTU President at their tense special congress held at Mmadinare Senior Secondary School in 2013 after the elections were postponed in Francistown. A very militant leader Tshukudu was previously BOFEPUSU Secretary General taking over from Andrew Motsamai – the current president of BOPEU. One of his campaign messages ahead of the 2013 congress and after winning was to root out corruption at Botswana’s oldest union and to ensure leadership transparency. It was during his tenure that BTU saw some growth especially its business as the 2014 financial report showed that its current assets increased from P1 042 908.00 to P2 825 887.00 and this was attributed to improvement in the cash resources of the union whose cash resources were 94 per cent of the total group cash in the bank. The audited financial report further indicated that the total assets owned by the BTU Group of companies totalled P52 775 052, an increase of 13 per cent compared to the previous year. One of the issues that is said not be sitting well with some within the union about him is that he is too rigid and out of touch with the masses. Tshukudu’s team includes Gotlamang Oitsile as deputy president, Agang Habana as Secretary General Elias Rebobonye as his deputy and Johannes Pushudi as Treasurer General. One of their aims is to revamp culture of professionalism in both administration, political and business wings within the union and recruit new members.
The youthful deputy President came to prominence in 2013 when he challenged for the BTU’s second most powerful position. Though most people didn’t give him a chance, he managed to triumph at the closely contested elections in Mmadinare. One of his strength is said to be his youthfulness and ability to connect with ordinary members, especially the youthful ones. An outspoken unionist Dipogiso said that one of his priorities if elected BTU President would be to strengthen internal democracy within the union and use the bottom up approach to issues. One of the issues of concern to union members has been a communication gap between the union leadership and ordinary members and Dipogiso said that he wants to close that gap. One of his weaknesses is said to be lack of experience in national leadership, with some feeling that he should have chosen to defend his position as deputy president and challenge for the higher office in 2019. Dipogiso’s team includes Uyapo Vondo as Deputy President, Slumber Nthobatsang as Secretary General with Modise Maeletso as his deputy and Keatametse Ntuelang as Treasurer General.
Congress starting on Wednesday
BTU Executive Secretary Samuel Mapolelo has confirmed that it is all system go for the congress. Kenya National Union for Teachers’ Session Wilson will give a keynote address while Minister of Education and Skills Development Dr Unity Dow will do the official opening of the congress. He said that they are expecting 600 delegates.