Troubled Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) business wing Board Chairperson, Masego Mogwera who remains locked out of her offices at the union headquarters returns to the office today after her successful court application.
This follows a restraining order she successfully secured against acting president, Olefile Monakwe, in an urgent court case at the Lobatse High Court last week Friday.
When returning to the offices on Monday this week, the Board chairperson found that locks had been changed and thus denying her access. Things changed yesterday after the court concurred with Mogwera and her lawyers' view that the locking of the office was a contempt of Court against an order they had secured against any disruptions by Monakwe or anyone acting under his (Monakwe) instructions.
Due to the latest development, on Wednesday this week, Mogwera’s lawyers were back at the Lobatse High Court to file for contempt before Justice Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe who issued the initial restraining order.
Meanwhile, last Friday the High Court moved to end confusion at BOPEU by bringing back Mogwera as Board chairperson and director of the union’s business wing, Babereki Investments.
Other directors who got back are Martin Gabobake, Thabologo Galekhutle and legal advisor Otto Itumeleng. They had lost their positions after Monakwe issued announcements to the effect that he had appointed a new Board for the company.
In motivating her case, Mogwera said she was moving the application in the best interest of the company and BOPEU members. She also argued that under the NBFIRA Act, no one can be appointed as Babereki Investment Board director before his or her name has been submitted to the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) for vetting.
The process, she said, can take as long as eight months. Mogwera argued that it took Monakwe less than eight months of vetting to pass the fit and proper test. She supported her statement by claiming that the regulator would be enraged to learn that unfit people have been appointed Board directors.
The initial Court Order barred Monakwe, or anybody so sent by him from interfering in the affairs of the BOPEU business arm. Such officers were also ordered not to disturb the newly-restored Board of directors in the discharge of their functions.
Additionally, the reinstated Board chairperson of Babereki Investments and her Board have to be accorded access to the premises after it was denied them.
The urgent Court case also hit Monakwe with punitive costs to client attorney scale, estimated at P200, 000.
Still on the matter, security has been beefed up at the entrance of BOPEU premises following the toppling of Mogwera and the Secretary General, Topius Marenga. The premises have since been guarded with dogs and more manpower has been brought on board.
In their papers, Mogwera and company argued that Babereki Investments, though has BOPEU shareholding, remains a separate entity from BOPEU and is governed by the Companies Act as well as the NBFIRA Act. It is a regulated entity, whose directors are appointed at the company’s Annual General Meeting (AGM).
On the contrary, Mogwera pointed out that no AGM nor special general meeting of the company were convened as per the dictates of the Babereki Investments constitution or Companies Act. She also said yet another
She claimed not even a single proposal for such was ever made at any time in recent days in the case of Monakwe.
Mogwera further argued that the meeting that purported to fire her and the Board was neither a Board Meeting nor the company’s AGM.
She was of the view that the same meeting where the decision to fire the Board was taken was not convened in terms of the BOPEU constitution. The decision was taken at a meeting that was not for Babereki Investments, she asserted. Mogwera also told Court that the resolutions of the alleged illegal BOPEU meeting contradicted its agenda.
For his part, Mogwera’s lawyer, Dutch Leburu argued that Monakwe could not have been acting on behalf of BOPEU, the 100% shareholders at Babereki Investments as there was no shareholders' meeting convened for this purpose of appointing an acting president.
Mogwera raised fear that Monakwe’s alleged reckless statements and actions could jeopardise the opportunity for Babereki Investments’ licence renewal.
The licence is currently being considered and it is at a critical stage of evaluation. NBFIRA could withdraw the licence in the midst of the confusion, she said. A similar situation happened to other local businesses before. In case of BOPEU, that is likely to put at risk the livelihoods of the company’s 44 employees and union’s more than 35, 000 members who rely on Babereki Investments for funeral benefits, insurance and loans.
“It creates significant reputational damage which the current Board has made every effort to uplift and manage,” Mogwera argued in part in her affidavit.
Narrating the prevailing state of affairs at BOPEU since she was suspended, Mogwera said a Board director Gabobake was on April 29 forced to authorise payment for the company in the parking lot after he was denied access by a security officer at the advice of Monakwe.
She said she also had to sign letters to stakeholders outside the premises as she was denied entry and her fingerprint was expunged to disable entry.
Due to the development, Mogwera further said a special Board of Directors meeting of April 29 could not be held on the business premises as Monakwe’s agents refused to give Directors access.
The matter returns to the High Court on or about May 16, for the confirmation of the interim order.
In yet another incident, the Court case was not without drama as Monakwe’s lawyer Gabriel Kanjabanga failed to file opposing papers. Things got worse when he failed to convince the Court that the matter warranted a postponement. He also failed to oppose the temporary order as proposed by the applicant’s attorney.
He found himself on the wrong side of the law when he attacked the Court for refusing to grant him a postponement. But later on, he tendered an unreserved apology as Justice Ketlogetswe threatened to hold him in contempt of Court.