The President of the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), Andrew Motsamai said the decision by the union to disinvest from UNIGEM was purely based on business considerations, as the company has not declared dividends in the past five years.
UNIGEM has issued a press statement to announce that BOPEU has decided to disinvest from the company with immediate effect. “This leaves the company with four shareholders; namely Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and National Amalgamated, Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU). The valuation process is going to complete the sale transaction and all other necessary logistics,” the statement said.
UNIGEM was formed in 2009 by the five public sector trade unions. In 2010, the company was contracted by the government to administer the Government Motor Vehicle and Residential Advance Scheme (GEMPAS). The company is charged with assisting eligible civil servants to apply for motor vehicle and housing loans with participating financial institutions. At the formation of the company, the shareholders were required to collectively raise P6 million as a start up capital. Each of the unions ended up contributing P1.2 million.
Speaking in an interview, Motsamai said the decision to disinvest in BOPEU was considered a long time ago. He recalled that this matter was first discussed during their convention in 2012. He said they revisited the issue during last year’s convention. The BOPEU president said they decided to terminate their relationship with UNIGEM this year, adding that this was purely a business decision.
Motsamai said the reason they decided to disinvest from UNIGEM was because the company has not been making profit since its inception. He said they have never received any dividends from UNIGEM. “Since 2009, they have not declared dividends,” he charged.
“Our business advisers didn’t see it as a viable partner. Investors are interested in profits. If I put P1.2 million I expect to
Motsamai dismissed claims that their decision to pull from the company might have been motivated by political differences. He insisted that the matter had nothing to do with politics. Of late BOPEU has been at loggerheads with the four other unions that fall under the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU). BOPEU is also a BOFEPUSU affiliate. The bone of contention was the decision by BOFEPUSU to endorse the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) during their campaign to the 2014 general elections. BOPEU differed with the other four unions on the basis that there has never been a resolution to support one particular political movement.
When he was contacted, UNIGEM Chief Executive Officer, Julian Willie confirmed BOPEU’s disinvestment from the company. He said the union did not state the reasons why they were disinvesting. “They have indicated their decision to disinvest. This is why we have issued a press release,’ he said.
Willie did not say whether the company has been making profit. All he could say was that the company has been doing well because it has not retrenched staff. “Our employees are paid on time,” he said.
He said the remaining shareholders are focused on growing the company.
Willie said even though BOPEU has disinvested from their company they would continue to assist the union members. He said they assist all government employees whether they are unionised or not.
Meanwhile, in its press statement, UNIGEM stated that the remaining shareholders of the company, convened an extra ordinary meeting on October 31st, and amongst others resolved that the BOPEU shares will eventually be made available to interested private investors.