The Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) saga has escalated to the extent where members are now crying that there was a planned coup.
The suspended National Executive Committee (NEC) has described the meeting that was held at Cresta two weeks back where the dispute ensured to the point of police being called as a staged ‘coup’.
The infamous meeting that led to the suspension of BOPEU president, Masego Mogwera, general secretary Topias Marenga and their team has been labelled as nothing but a social friends meeting held to topple the committee without prior notice.
The suspended committee on Thursday before Lobatse High Court judge, Godfrey Nthomiwa accused the interim committee that was elected during the July 28, 2018 NEC meeting of merely staging a coup to topple them and in turn becoming constitutional delinquents.
The committee that faced the interim committee that includes acting president Zibani Philemon, first deputy president Ogaufi Masame, treasurer general Mosalagae Tlhako and Motswaledi Monaiwa want their legitimacy upheld by the court.
The committee was responding to the interim committee’s demands of seeking an order to force them out of office.
The two parties who have both suspended each other and the union declared to be under a state of emergency, clashed in court following the interim committee’s urgent application seeking amongst others the removal of the committee from office.
During submissions on Thursday, the case was only argued on the preliminary points of urgency and not merits.
Attorney, Dutch Leburu representing the suspended committee said the interim committee has no right to bring an urgent application more so that they had been suspended from the union activities pending their hearing.
He said the urgent application was merely motivated by allegations that the committee had increased their salaries, which if found to be a fact, could be recovered in due process.“Finding that the members have paid themselves does not render the matter urgent. In fact, the applicant can be labelled negligent in deposing their duties if it took them forever to find out that there was misappropriation of funds,” he said.
Leburu argued that the interim committee was just some “constitutional delinquent”, as it lacked the locus standi to seek any relief as they have clearly violated the Trade Union Act by joining BOPEU as an applicant.
He explained that in law, only registered members of BOPEU could represent it, therefore the applicants, since they were not registered, could not
“The interim committee should be registered. They cannot seek orders on behalf of the union since the Registrar of Societies does not recognise them.
“If they want to be heard, they should remove the union from the applicants and then sought the orders on their own,” he said. Leburu argued that the interim committee should not use the court to help them legitimise the violation of the constitution, as there has never been any evidence of concealment of payments by the committee.
He asked the court not to render the matter urgent as the applicants could be heard in the normal process as they have a redress should the court favour them.
On the other hand, the interim committee wanted their appointment to be declared lawful and enforceable pending investigation of suspended senior members.
They denied convening the meeting for purpose of carrying out a coup as alleged by the senior members.
Through their attorney, Paul Mudzimu, the interim committee explained that the reason for seeking such declarations was that the resolution that they sought to enforce was made at the scheduled meeting of the NEC.
On that account, Mudzimu said the process relating to the convening of the said meeting was lawful and not disputed.
“In that instance, the meeting had to continue until conclusion of the agenda and the resolution, which were passed properly, constituted members are binding and ought to be adhered to,” he explained.
Mudzimu pointed out that the NEC was vested with the power and authority to carry out the business of the union in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and resolutions from the bodies running the union. He argued that the NEC suspended the respondents for breach of the constitution in that they paid themselves salaries whereas the same was not approved in terms of Article 53.2 of the constitution.
Mudzimu said the matter should be declared urgent in that the respondents continue to pay themselves salaries and hold office despite being suspended.
Also, that there was a dispute of law between the parties that have slowed down the activities of the union and that in the end members of the union are the ones who stand to suffer. The matter has been set for ruling on Friday.