A bitter exchange of letters has become the order of the day at the University of Botswana (UB) where staff are at loggerheads with the Chairperson of the University Council, Dr Joseph Makhema, and are accusing him of being a dishonest man who is hell-bent on destroying the University of Botswana Academic and Senior Support Staff Union (UBASSSU) and what its stands for.
On the other hand, Makhema has written back to the union, saying he has been informed or advised by management that there is no properly constituted union executive committee and that the last efforts to illicit (sic) from the last known address of UBASSSU were not fruitful. The union wrote back to Makhema saying such a position is not only false but dishonest. “The Secretariat of UBASSSU has never ceased to function at any day and there is no communication that was ever sent by management or Secretary to Council that was never responded to.
It is quite clear from our end that the Secretary to Council, who also doubles as the Director of Legal Services, has been consistently misleading both Council and Executive Management on issues pertaining to UBASSSU,” reads the response from the union.
Its leadership says they previously noted that neither Council nor Management had any right to confer legitimacy on it. “For your own recollection,” the letter from the union reads, “the leadership of UBASSSU has previously explained before to you that the issue of the leadership of the union is an internal matter that is governed by the organisation’s own constitution, national labour laws and ILO Conventions. It is apparent that the University of Botswana Council under your leadership, acting on questionable advice of the Secretary to Council, seeks to interfere in the internal affairs of a legally recognised union.”
The union accuses Makhema of intruding upon union matters. “This intrusion on your part demonstrates the glaring deficit in the understanding of basic legal and governance principles regulating the interaction between Management and recognised unions such as UBASSSU,” it says. “This point has been brought to the attention of both Council and Management functionaries in several of our previous correspondence. Your persistence with this crude and offensive position, ostensibly with the advice and input of the Director of Legal Services, who is also the Secretary to Council, impugns the standing, competence and integrity of the incumbents of these two offices, thus indicating that they are not fit and proper persons to be holding these positions of leadership at our esteemed and premier institution of higher learning.”
The union holds that they are left with no option but to question Makhema’s understanding of the basic principles of good governance that guide the interactions between employers and employees in organisations. “It is on this basis that we have previously called upon you to resign due to the incompetence that you consistently exhibit,” it asserts.
“Another apparent lack of your understanding of the basic legal and governance principles comes out on your assertion that the …‘aforesaid judgment of the High Court has not been overturned and its pronouncements must of course be heeded to by any law abiding person…’ in reference to Justice Komboni’s ruling. Such position is shamefully ridiculous, legally incompetent and a gross misdirection on your part and administratively inconsequential.”
The union informed Makhema that they have been granted a stay of execution against Justice Komboni’s judgment pending determination of their appeal by the Court of Appeal. “It is elementary, a fact that is only escaping the clearly incompetent Director of Legal Services who is ill-advising you, that a stay of execution simply means that the status quo ante obtains and the judgment granted is frozen or does not come into effect, until the matter has finally been determined and settled by the Court of Appeal,” reads the relevant letter from the union.
“It is quite clear that you have serious misunderstanding of the powers and role of a Council Chairperson to a point that you are intruding into operation and administrative powers only exercised by the Vice Chancellor and other University officers.” “He does not need to be held at ransom by a supervisor who has some ulterior motives to prosecute to the detriment of the welfare and professional interests of the University of Botswana employees.”
The union reminded Makhema of his tenure at the Health Professionals Council: “Your vindictive leadership style reminds us of your unsuccessful tenure at the Botswana Health Professionals Council and the attempts to victimise one of the most decorated specialists in the country, Prof. Kiran Bhagat,” they wrote to him. “One would have thought that you have learnt to lead better following the thrashing of your decisions by the Court of Appeal.”
In response to the accusations, Dr Makhema said he is aware of the accusations. “I have taken note of the letter. But I cannot engage with people who do not have a locus standi to represent the UB Staff. The courts have said that they do not have a right to represent those that they purport to represent. You cannot disregard a court order on the basis that you have appealed the judgment,” he said.
He continued : “They make several accusations upon me, my integrity and reputation. They have a right to but as far as I am concerned I have served the university well and continue to but its for everyone to judge. I am just happy that what they say is not the general feeling within the institution or school management. I will not stoop so low to respond to everything they say within this letter where they are making some ridiculous demands.