Botswana: Mogwera Survives Another Coup Attempt

16 September 2021

Trounces Sedimo at Court

Judge declares Mogwera, Marenga legitimate BOPEU leaders

Sedimo is not BOPEU NEC member - Justice Ketlogetswe



Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) president Masego Mogwera has survived yet another palace coup engineered by one Kaboyaone Sedimo, who purported to be secretary general of the union.

Mogwera and General Secretary Topias Marenga were forced to file an urgent application on the night of July 9, 2021 before Justice Gaopalelwe Ketlogetswe after receiving an email the previous day from Sedimo who had purported to call a special meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Union.

One of the key items on the agenda of that special meeting was to deliberate on whether or not the NEC should exercise its powers to take disciplinary action against its president, Mogwera, and pending institution of such disciplinary proceedings, to consider suspending her from office.

The special NEC meeting was scheduled to take place on July 10, 2021 at 1000 hours. In the meantime, Mogwera and Marenga were away from the office, and the meeting was to take place while the president of the Union was away.

In releasing his judgement on Tuesday, Justice Ketlogetswe said:

"In short, the respondent was planning a palace coup by some in the Union leadership, in the absence of the Union president. Masego Mogwera was jolted into action and convened a round robin meeting of the Union NEC to thwart the coup. The result was the institution of the present application on an urgent basis".

The Judge said the special meeting was to be convened in the absence of the Union president, and without her knowledge and authority, which was clearly in violation of the Union constitution.

"In my view, the applicants could not rely on the fact that the respondent was in any event acting illegally when calling a Union NEC special meeting, and think that it would be sufficient to argue later that such a meeting, being an illegality, did not produce any legally binding outcomes. They were obliged to act to protect the interests of the Union from chaos."

In the present case the respondent was due to convene a meeting of the Union NEC which was clearly unauthorised by Mogwera, let alone by BOPEU's constitution. Ketlogetswe said the president was, in all likelihood, going to be suspended and another circle of litigation intended to restore the lawful leadership of the Union embarked upon.

"BOPEU has traversed that terrain before, and on many occasions. It came to light during argument, and this came from the submissions of Mr [Yaone] Molatlhegi, that the respondent is not a member of the Union NEC. The Courts have, on many occasions, in the past pronounced who the lawful NEC members of the Union are, and this point needs no further debate, although Mr [Dutch] Leburu] was anxious that I should categorically state in this judgment that Topias Marenga was the lawful secretary general of BOPEU."

He added: "I think that point has been made several times before by the courts and it will be of no further value-add even if I was to state it again. That is a settled matter and the respondent, in holding himself out as the secretary general of BOPEU is clearly acting not only unlawfully, but also in contempt of clear court decisions in that regard".

The Judge then ordered that the meeting scheduled to be convened on July 10, 2021 at Travel Lodge or any other location found to be available in Gaborone or wherever, at the instance of Sedimo and pursuant to the notice issued on July 8, 2021 be cancelled. The notice disseminated by the respondent on July 8, 2021, dated the same date purporting to be from a Round Robin meeting be declared null and void and set aside. "The respondent is interdicted and/or restrained from purporting to be General Secretary of the 1st Applicant. The parties who are in law recognized as office bearers of BOPEU are as set out in the Notice issued by the Registrar of Trade Unions and dated the 12th May 2021."

Ketlogetswe interdicted and/or restrained from obstructing any official of BOPEU as recognized in terms of Section 26 of the Trade Unions and Employers Organizations Act from performing their functions as such, including but not limited to access to the BOPEU offices and related matters.

"The respondent be and is hereby ordered to pay the costs of this application on attorney and client scale."

This was one of the many applications concerning BOPEU that has come before the Courts concerning the leadership of the Union. There have been many such other applications where either Mogwera, had to come to court to assert her legitimacy as the president of the Union in terms of the Union constitution, or to fend off attempts to undermine her claim to the Union leadership, or by others within the Union leadership, or without, who have also themselves come to court to seek orders legitimising their otherwise usurpation of the Union leadership and oust her from the presidency of the Union.

Mogwera, who is considered the 'Iron Lady' of labour unions, was elected BOEPU in December 2018, but before the ink could even dry on the Union resolution voting her president, she was on April 27, 2019, suspended from office at a gathering of some of the officials of the Union leadership.

Alongside her, Marenga, then the union general secretary, was also suspended. In the place of Marenga, the respondent, Sedimo, was appointed by the new union leadership. Mogwera, according to her founding affidavit, challenged her suspension from the union presidency, including her subsequent removal from office, through long drawn legal battles which were resolved in her favour by the Courts.

As part of the never-ending story of the fights within the Union according to Mogwera, on July 8, 2021, while she and Marenga were on their way to Maun to attend a meeting of Babereki Investments, she received an e-mail communication from the respondent, in his purported capacity as the general secretary of the Union.

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