The long running battle for control of Botswana Landboards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU) Burial Society threatens to throw the annual general meeting of the funeral scheme scheduled for next Saturday into disarray.
Early this week, tension resurfaced between the union leadership and management committee of the burial society when the latter requested the release of delegates for the congress to be held in Palapye. The union leaders are fighting for autonomy of the burial society. The union leadership has since asked the burial society management committee to rescind an earlier statement distancing themselves from the trade union operations before they could facilitate the release of delegates to the annual general meeting (AGM). On November 3 the chairman of the management committee of the society, Tebogo Moalosi, had asked the union to facilitate the release of delegates.
In a letter to the chairman of the burial society on Monday the union secretary general Ketlhalefile Motshegwa said while the central executive committee (CEC) is committed and willing to liaise with the employer for the release of delegates, "it is paramount to deal with a hurdle posed by a letter on 28 July wherein you completely dissociate yourself from the union". Motshegwa said the CEC requests for release and transport from the employer for members of the union and activities of sub structures of the union only and therefore asked management committee of the burial society to give feedback as to whether they still maintain the position that they are not part of the union.
Moalosi responded Friday afternoon saying it is unfortunate that CEC has "construed us to have been disassociating ourselves from the union to the extent that you imply, through the tone of your letter in issue, that you cannot accede to our request for release and transport for our members to attend the BBS 4th Annual General Meeting. Be advised that the contents of the letter in issue stands as it was meant to clarify the matter beyond doubt without necessarily insinuating that we are precluding the union from requesting for the release and transport for our members from the employer".
He said upon careful reading of the letter, he notes that it is drafted in a manner that is akin to brow beating the management committee to renege from their earlier position which we had expressed in our letter dated 28th July 2014 authored by attorney Meshack Baoleki to the Director, Directorate of Public Service Management.
Even more brazenly, John Morobolo-the deputy chairman of the burial society said the misinterpretation of the contents of the letter was a deliberate and malevolent attitude purposely intended to defy the gallant explanation that the management and operations of the burial society are divergent from that of the union. "The management committee wishes to inform its members that they will continue to be committed in order to harness good working relationship with the Central Executive Committee as they have always done. We will do anything within our power to ensure that workable solutions are reached," he said.
The Patriot on Sunday is reliably informed that the management committee has preempted the CEC move and have already advised their members to make their own travel arrangements. "We have always managed to convene meetings even without the assistance for release of the delegates by the union leadership," said Morobolo .
The burial society was formed in 2005, the first separate Annual General Meeting was in 2011 at Nata where the society had half a day to deliberate on issues that were specific to it. The second AGM was held in February 2013 after the aborted scheduled one in November 2012 where the then CEC indicated intention to take over the chairmanship of the society. The third AGM was an elective one held in Maun in November 2013 that ushered in the current management committee.
The Saturday AGM will be held under the theme 'a quantum leap into success'. The management committee has already released a notice to the branches across the country, in compliance with the provision of society’s constitution that says a notice shall be released eight weeks before the date of the meeting. Delegates are expected to consider the management report that shall be delivered by the chairperson of the society. There shall be presentation of a theme paper to the members, being the first of its kind in the history of the society. Delegates will also consider the financial report for the fiscal year 2013/2014. The recruitment policy and the disciplinary hearing policy will be presented to the delegates. The society has just completed an audio-visual documentary that will be presented to the delegates. The society will also launch its splendid website.
The meeting is also expected to discuss the operations of burial societies especially the differences between the CEC and management committee. The current impasse is another chapter of the turbulent relationship that has always existed between the union leadership and the burial society. Earlier this year the management committee had to seek the intervention of the Directorate of Public service Management insisting that the burial society is autonomous, registered under an independent act to the Trade Union and Employers Organisations Act. The union leadership had at the time resolved to take away subscription codes for the monthly premiums from the burial society. It was only when the management committee threatened to sue that the CEC backed off.
Lawyers representing both parties have advised them to find a workable solution to their working relationship as a way forward. A reconciliation meeting between CEC, management committee and the leadership forum has been scheduled for December, following a resolution the union's governing council of October 11.