In public, the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) leadership has taken a decision to remain apolitical. The resolution to distance itself from politics was taken in 2015. This rationale was given as the main reason behind its withdrawal from BOFEPUSU, which has gone public to declare their involvement in local politics and even aligned themselves with opposition parties. Behind the scenes however, BOPEU is alleged to be as deeply entrenched in politics as BOFEPUSU.
The Botswana Gazette has it on good authority that BOPEU is financing political parties and factions and giving financially rewarding business tenders to opposition activists. During the campaign for the Tlokweng parliamentary by-election which was held in May this year, BOPEU doled out a whopping P200, 000 to the Botswana National Front (BNF) whose candidate Masego Segokgo stood under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ticket.
In an interview with this publication last week Thursday, BNF President Duma Boko confirmed receipt of that amount but said he did not receive the money directly as it was received by four members of the UDC executive. ‘‘They only declared it to me,’’ Boko said. Boko further said that members of the executive committee also have the mandate to fundraise for the party. He was also dismissive of allegations that BOPEU ever offered him preferential financial support in his individual capacity.
BOPEU has also financed the Pilane faction of the BMD prior to and during the Bobonong congress.
In the build up to the bloody congress in Bobonong, Pilane’s faction held their meetings at BOPEU offices where they used the union’s facilities. After the Ndaba faction of the BMD held their well-attended meeting at Letlhabile Private School in Gaborone just before the Bobonong congress, BOPEU is said to have offered to pay for buses that would ferry Pilane’s sympathizers to Gaborone should the faction wish to hold a similar meeting to counter the one held by the Ndaba faction.
A member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) in the Pilane faction told this publication that they told BOPEU to instead assist them with country wide tours to register delegates for the Bobonong congress. At a press briefing yesterday in Gaborone, Secretary General of the Pilane BMD faction Gilbert Mangole told journalists that his faction spent close to P500, 000 on the congress.
This publication has established that part of the money was from BOPEU. The Botswana Gazette has been made aware that BOPEU paid for hotel accommodation and security for NEC members in the Pilane faction in Bobonong. Some of the NEC members anonymously confirmed the allegation. Winfred Rasina, who is Personal Assistant to BOPEU President, is said to have been given cash to pay for hotel accommodation and security personnel that was deployed at Matshekge School. Rasina has however denied the allegations pointing out that while he was at the congress, he paid from his pocket and was never given money to pay for BMD activities.
BOPEU has also engaged and paid UDC President Duma Boko for legal consultancy. ‘‘Why do you think Boko has softened up to BOPEU, he is benefiting personally and politically from their financial assistance,’’said a source within the BNF executive committee.
BOPEU has also awarded a tender to supply stationery (calendars and diaries) to one councillor who is Boko’s ally who has also been passionate in defending Boko and BOPEU on social media.
BOPEU has employed BNF youth activist Kago Mokotedi who is also vocal on social media defending Boko’s leadership. BOPEU recently employed former BCP member Tumiso Rakgare who continues to publicly declare his support for Boko and Dumelang Saleshando, with his recent Facebook post reading, ‘‘Ke ka ha go DUMA le DUMELANG.Ka bokhutshwane ka re Dumelang lotlhe ba ba ka ha go Boko’’ (I’m on the side of Duma and Dumelang. In short, I’m saying greet you (Dumelang) all who are on Boko’s side).
Investigations reveals that BOPEU is also involved in business transactions with one of Boko’s confidantes who is said to be the sole reason behind Boko and BOFEPUSU’s fallout. It is said that BOFEPUSU leadership tried on numerous occasions to advise Boko to cut ties with this associate but Boko instead chose to forgo his relationship with BOFEPUSO in favour of his trusted lieutenant who is believed to be doing his bidding in several business transactions.
Speaking to The Botswana Gazette Monday morning, BOPEU President Masego Mogwera denied claims her organisation is funding political parties, insisting that BOPEU still abides by the 2015 resolution to stay apolitical. On why they seem to employ many political activists, Mogwera said they employ them as Batswana and not because of their political affiliation.
Quizzed on why their employees engage in political matters on social media, Mogwera said she was not on Facebook but reiterated that should it reach her desk that some employees engage in politics, stern action will be taken against them. ‘‘When we employed those people, we made it clear to them that they should choose between political activism and BOPEU,’’ Mogwera said. She said they hired Boko for legal consultancy because of his skills as a lawyer and not because of his political position. She said the same applies to those they have engaged to provide procurement services. ‘‘Our funds are disbursed electronically and I challenge you to come and see our transaction history to see if we have funded any political party or political activist,’’ Mogwera said in response to allegations that BOPEU sponsors political activities.