Olefile Fast Monakwe’s two and a half years at the helm of the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), one of the largest trade unions in Botswana with 35,000 members, is the stuff of legends.
In August 2018, four months towards the BOPEU elective congress, Monakwe was nowhere near the seat of power. Masego Mogwera was the president, Martin Gabobake, the first deputy president and Ogaufi Tilly Masame the second deputy president, with Thabologo Galekhutle being the treasurer, and Topias Marenga and Kethapeleng Karabo as secretary-general and deputy secretary-general respectively.
When the first rebellion was staged in August 2018, marking the beginning of a protracted tussle for power, the antagonists who battled against Mogwera in the courts were NEC members, Masame, Motswaledi Monaiwa and Philemon Zibani, who led a number of the court cases. They were the de facto leaders of the faction.
It was after the 2018 congress, which gave Monakwe the first deputy president post that he became a key figure in his faction, as he became the benefactor during the April 27, 2019 coup that ensued and catapulted him to the BOPEU presidency.
Early leaders of the coup, namely Masame, Zibani, Monaiwa, had lost out in the power game to someone who had not toiled as much, Monakwe. Zibani would later settle for the deputy secretary-general post, after being beaten by another outsider in the camp, Rash Sedimo to the post of secretary-general at the Palapye congress, which has since been nullified by the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
With no seat of power left for him in the BOPEU NEC, Monaiwa would eventually settle for chairperson of BOPEU Services, a shelf company from which the union had discontinued and handed its services to Babereki Investments. Somehow Monaiwa found a way to make the company function again as its chairperson.
Not long ago, BOPEU Services, with the help of Monakwe launched a housing project in Gaborone that competes with a similar housing project in Mmopane Block 1, the BOPEU Enclave. Monakwe launched the BOPEU Services housing project backed by a notorious Malta-based shelf company fingered by a US-based international consortium of investigative journalism, as a suspicious money laundering entity. On the other hand, the Babereki Investments housing project is backed by HIS, a reputable South African-based fund management and affordable housing company, which is a member of the Hunt company, a famed US entity with 70 years as a real estate and affordable housing developer, amongst others.
Monakwe’s road to the top was charted fast like his namesake, but it was staying there that proved elusive for him, as seen with his many attempts to wrestle power away from Mogwera.