Govt snatches chairmanship from unions
BOPEU’s Marenga accused of voting with Govt trustees
He denies the claim – ‘voting was done in secret’
Celebrations over the removal of Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, from the chairmanship of Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) board were cut short last week when government trustees deposed Tobokani Rari and replaced him with deputy police commissioner Solomon Mantswe.
BPOPF principal officer, Boitumelo Johnson, confirmed on Friday that there have been changes in the composition of the board and the new sub-committees. "Yes, the new board chairman is Mr Mantswe, who used to be chairman of the Communications committee. Under the new board we only have five sub committees being Risk, Audit, Investment, Benefits and Human Resource," she said, adding that further information will be communicated at a press briefing during the week.
The removal of Morupisi followed sustained pressure from trade union trustees calling for him to step down after allegations of conflict of interest and corrupt practices surfaced at BPOPF. The fallout culminated with BPOPF board seeking the intervention of the regulator (NBFIRA) and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC). Morupisi has denied the allegations.
Rari now holds the record of the shortest stint at the helm of the multi-billion pula Fund. He was appointed interim chairman of the Board of Trustees of the BPOPF on May 09, 2018 while some board members were still undergoing a due diligence and vetting process conducted by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA). "Once they have been appointed and the full board is constituted, a voting process will be undertaken to appoint a substantive Board chairperson," Johnson, announced at the time.
That voting took place last week where government trustees in the newly appointed trimmed down board caught their trade union counterparts napping and voted Mantswe in to replace Rari of Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) and BOFEPUSU. The results of the vote – a 4-6 win for Mantswe – clearly showed that one of the trade union trustees had voted with government to remove his comrade.
Government and trade unions have an equal number of trustees in the board. Sources say trade union trustees had banked on a 5-5 tie if none of them voted with the employer, which would have required the ex officio member – the Principal Officer – to cast a deciding vote.
In 2016, Parliament passed the amendment of the Pensions and Provident Funds Act that regulates pension funds such as the BPOPF. Among the changes that were ushered by these amendments is the reduction of the size of the Boards of Trustees of such funds. Mantswe, Accountant General Emma Peloetletse, Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Health and Wellness Ruth Maphorisa, D. Molodi of Office of the President and Brigadier Charles Nkele of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) represent government on the new board of trustees. On the other hand, civil servants are represented by Rari, Topius Marenga of BOPEU, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa of BLLAHWU, Mr Gabana of BTU, Ms Joel of NALCGPWU.
While many hailed the ascendance of Rari to the helm of BPOPF two months ago, others believed that as interim chairman he was one foot in ahead of any other contender. But it was not to be! It has since emerged that the long standing bickering between trade union leaders at Botswana Federation of Public, Parastatal and Private Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) and Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) had a huge influence in how trustees voted in the secret ballot.
Sources have confided in The Patriot on Sunday that BOPEU representative Marenga has been unhappy with Rari, a BOFEPUSU deployee, as chairman and hence snubbed a caucus meeting called by trade union trustees ahead of the voting. Instead he is alleged to have met in caucus with government trustees where Rari’s removal was mooted and later implemented through a vote. A snap survey by this publication on the trade union trustees reveals that all voted for Rari with the exception of Marenga who refused to divulge how he voted, hiding behind confidentiality.
"Voting was done in secret and I do not know how they found out how I voted. I wonder who divulged such information. As a board member at BPOPF I am sworn to confidentiality. Therefore, I cannot discuss what goes on there with the media. That would be unethical," fumed Marenga, denying knowledge of any caucus meetings by either of the trustees ahead of voting.
"Nobody invited me. I know nothing about any caucus," he said.
Marenga is also accused of peddling misinformation in a local weekend publication to sow seeds of discord between BPOPF board and the principal officer Boitumelo Johnson. The latter had a tumultuous relationship with deposed chairman, Morupisi, after employee trustees lobbied for his removal accusing him of being conflicted in his relationship with the controversial asset management firm Capital Management Botswana (CMB).
The Patriot on Sunday is reliably informed that Marenga’s hostility towards BOFEPUSU leaders was recently demonstrated when the federation and Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) jointly attended an ILO conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Although the two federations had agreed to alternate the chairmanship at the conference because they represent different sets of workers in Botswana, Marenga whose trade union belongs to BFTU, is said to have vehemently opposed the decision. He wanted BFTU to be the sole chairman of the Botswana delegation to ILO conference.
An evidently shocked Marenga said his detractors are clutching at straws trying to discredit him and tarnish his name. He said it is no secret that him and BOPEU president Masego Mogwera attended an open discussion held at BOSETU on the issue of the chairmanship of the Botswana delegation to ILO conference. He said their position as was that the most representative federation of trade unions in a country is recognised by ILO as the national labour centre. "Therefore, we proposed that if BOFEPUSU believe they are the most numerically superior federation they should allow BFTU to complete their tenure and they will chair the delegation going forward. It is on record for 2017/18 that BFTU reported the Botswana case to ILO but BOFEPUSU wanted to take over the presentations. We honestly believed that the alternating model violates ILO provisions. However, in the end we all reached a consensus and agreed on the alternating model. That is the final position we adopted," he said, dismissing any malicious intent on their part as BOPEU.