Long serving Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) Secretary General, Tobokani Rari will for the first time face no less than three challengers at the upcoming elective congress, billed for end of April.
Amidst growing calls for him to step aside, after serving three consecutive terms, the militant Rari has been targeted by some of his BOSETU comrades, complaining that he has overstayed in the office and therefore should not contest the position so that he gives others a chance. In an interview, the outspoken Rari said he still wants to serve the union as well as its members, adding that he has been democratically elected before. He is contesting against Innocent Mannathoko, Gothusamang Sekgwama and Wabo Tshosa. Mannathoko is in a lobby list led by Mpho Maruping while Sekgwama and Tshosa are independent candidates.
"I am very happy that I am being challenged this time around. In the 2014 and 2017 elections I was unopposed as nobody raised a hand to contest against me. In 2011, I successfully won the elections during my first term and all these terms I served as a democratically elected SG. I cannot be distracted by gossip mongers who want to claim I am power hungry," he lashed out.
Asked about why he is seeking a re-election for the fourth term, Rari said he believes that BOSETU members are obliged to be given a variety to select from as they will elect their choice. "I served the union with due diligence after the members entrusted me with their votes. Why should we now block other people to contest when the constitution doesn't limit one's term to contest the elections? Who is honored to say that Rari shouldn't contest," he asked rhetorically.
Meanwhile, this publication has also gathered that the employer -the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) have in the past claimed they do not know Rari's whereabouts for the past eight years.
Sources at government enclave claim that DPSM leadership is watching with keen interest the BOSETU elective congress, secretly backing Mannathoko to oust Rari. Pressed on the allegations that DPSM is plotting his downfall, Rari said he is ready for war."It is just unfortunate that rumors are being peddled that DPSM didn't know my whereabouts. But for the record, we wrote to DPSM for extension of my secondment to BOSETU and I have those letters with DPSM Director Goitseone Mosalakatane approving it," said Rari.
"Whether DPSM is plotting against me, it's none of my business. It's not the story that I want to buy. I am only concentrating on one thing and that is to serve the union as per the will of the people. If I'm still relevant person in their eyes, then they will retain me in the leadership," he added.
DPSM boss Mosalakatane was not available to comment on claims that DPSM want Rari out.
In a letter written by Mosalakatane to BOSETU president Winston Radikolo earlier this year, she said Rari's extension of secondment to BOSETU is approved until 31 May 2021. She said Rari is expected to report for duty at the office of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Basic Education on Tuesday 1st June, a move which Rari said show that DPSM knows his whereabouts.
Meanwhile, BOSETU will on the of April 27-28 host its elective congress where fireworks are expected as two lobby groups led by Winston Radikolo and Mpho Maruping battle it out for leadership positions.
Rari confirmed that the congress will be held virtually as a result of adhering to Covid-19 protocols. He said the congress has been delayed as it was supposed to have been held in August 2020 but he indicated that the task force couldn't agree to their proposal to continue with it. "We are aware that our term in the office has long elapsed. The constitution dictates that the congress should be held every 3 years in August. Covid-19 delayed us and it is not like that the current leadership is clinging to power intentionally. The congress is due soon," he added.
Rari said the congress is not all about the elections but it entails amongst others reviewing of the union audited financial results as well making the resolutions with regions passing motions. According to him, delegates will be joining across the country taking part in a virtual congress.
The delegates will be based in Gaborone, Jwaneng, Maun, Palapye and Francistown.
Two factions are battling out of the National Executive Committee (NEC) for next three years. Rari forms part of the incumbent BOSETU president Radikolo's lobby group and is facing one Mpho Maruping.
In an interview Maruping said their preparations are affected by Covid-19 containment measures. He said they are not able to travel across the regions to meet members for campaigns but said that his lobby group is confident of victory against Radikolo's team.
Enthusiastic Maruping also said their opponents ride on advantage of incumbency to put up a better campaign as they have access to resources such as allowances to reach out to members. "We are happy with the progress despite the challenges that we face due to Covid-19.Mood on the ground is good and people want change. Our focus is to bring change in the administration of the union as well as securing future for BOSETU. We will come out as a victorious side," he said.
For his part Rari said that they are ready for the elections, oozing with confidence that his team will win. "It is a common knowledge that in every organisation that when there is elections people will differ in aspirations and that doesn't mean that there are factions. We are not at war with our opponents. We are just two groups vying for leadership. We are ready for elections," he added.
Independent Secretary General candidates Sekgwama and Tshosa were not available for comment.