Internal fighting between factions in the leadership of Botswana Land boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU) reached an all-time low midweek with the dismissal of union president and termination of secretary general's secondment.
An urgent application was filed this week before Justice Godfrey Nthomiwa to nullify Samuel Leina Kedise's holding of the union president post as a section of the central executive committee (CEC) moved to remove Kedise alleging that his membership has lapsed due to non-subscription. The case will be heard on Wednesday. The CEC members said contrary to constitutional requirement of subscribing as a union member at Article 5.4, Kedise failed to fulfil the same for the months of January, February, March, April, May, June and July 2014. They further warned Kedise to cease conducting himself as either a member of neither the union nor its president. "The implication of failing such subscription to the union is that he ceased being its member on 31 March 2014. He has since been advised that he is not entitled to participate in any affairs of the union and to surrender any property of the union in his possession or control, until he reapplies for readmission," read part of the letter to regional and branch secretaries signed by Keaoleboga Dipogiso-the deputy secretary general.
To counter the move Kedise immediately refuted the claims as an orchestrated ploy by the deputy secretary general to besmirch him. He maintained that his membership is in good standing. He replied: "The Deputy Secretary General makes an assertion that they made a resolution as a Central Executive Committee (CEC). This flies in the face of common sense in that meetings of the CEC are presided over by the President therefore the purported resolution referred to is of no force and effect and therefore in the same vein should be ignored because its purpose is to polarise the union. The conduct of the Deputy Secretary General and any member of the CEC who has associated himself or herself with it constitute indiscipline of the highest degree requiring to be nipped on the bud before the integrity of the union is highly compromised."
Three days later, last Friday, Kedise retaliated advising the Francistown city clerk that the union has taken a decision that the Secretary General, Ketlhalefile Motshwegwa should resume duty at the council with immediate effect pending negotiations with Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) for possibility of extension of secondment. DPSM Director Carter Morupisi has also been notified about the development. Motshegwa declined to discuss Kedise's status because the case has already been filed before court but said he is not aware of the letter terminating his secondment. Attempts to talk to Kedise failed as he did not answer his phone from last week. Motshegwa said it is shocking and disappointing that a union president who claims to be in good standing has now taken the position of the employer purporting to terminate secondment. "Secondment is one the thorny issues we have been fighting the employer over after an attempt to take away trade unions organisational rights. How can he claim that the union leadership has made that decision?" he asked.
Evolution of dispute
Kedise was brought in as a compromise candidate at the Mmadinare congress in December to neutralise factions contesting the elections. Soon thereafter, he was promoted and transferred from Kgatleng District Council (KDC) to the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology. From as early as February, Kedise is said to have become inactive in the trade union and at some point hinted at the possibility of resigning the presidential position but was persuaded by some members to stay. From then on he failed to feature at major events of the trade union, earning himself the label of the absent president.
Kedise's major problem with a section of his CEC is alleged to be numerous occasions when he used his powers to frustrate decisions not supported by formal resolutions of properly constituted meetings. Although delegates to the 2013 Mmadinare elective congress had refused to endorse the amendment of BLLAHWU’s constitution, which would have introduced a clause recommending the full time employment of secretary general at the union office, a section of CEC tried to push the decision through without a proper resolution, it is alleged. Kedise refused to endorse the decision to employ a secretary general on fulltime basis, sources told The Patriot on Sunday. Motshegwa counters that this is a blue lie as since 2010 BLLAHWU constitution makes the secretary general the highest employee in the union office, which has never been implemented.
According to Motshegwa, the union leadership sought legal opinion from Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys, two weeks ago. The lawyers' advise confirmed the position that the Secretary general shall be a fulltime employee of the union, according to the union constitution as amended at the Ramotswa 2009 conference. "The lawyers reiterated that in fact, it is unconstitutional that BLLAHWU secretary general is not a fulltime employee. It is not like I want this for myself as I am not going to be in this position forever," said Motshegwa.
Motshegwa, who also sits on the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) board of trustees representing the trade union party, was recently involved in a tussle with the employer after the latter froze his salary demanding that he return to his work station since his secondment period had elapsed. The matter is still pending before the High Court.
Fight over millions
For several years, the union leadership has been fighting tooth and nail to have the multimillion Pula BLLAHWU Burial Society (BBS)brought under the leadership of the union president as chairman. While former president, Goretetse Kekgonegile fought numerous court battles with the leadership of the burial society, he failed to take it over. It is alleged that Kedise has refused to toe the same line leading to a fallout with some members of CEC, who then started plotting the ouster. BBS is a money spinner and has several investments running into millions far much better than the parent union. Fighting for autonomy, BBS is reported to have refused to declare dividends to BLLAHWU like the other subsidiaries.
Although the union has been accused of cancelling a Botswana Landboards and Local Authorities Sports Association (BLASSA) trip to Durban next month, to use funds for the trip for the on-going lawsuit, Motshegwa said that cannot be further from the truth. It has since emerged that the employer-government has refused to release employees included in the team that was to take part in the Durban games citing Ebola fears. However in an interesting twist Botswana on Thursday sent a team of 12 young chess players to the 2014 World Youth Chess Championships slated for Durban, South Africa.