Disruption and discontinuance of bonu General National Congress
This press release serves to inform Members of Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) and its stakeholders about the Central Executive Committee (CEC)s decision to discontinue the National General Congress, which was slated from 21st to 23rd March; and further highlight the chronology of events that led to the interruption and eventual decision to discontinue the Congress.
The BONU Constitution prescribes for the CEC to convene a General National Congress every three years, at which members are given an opportunity to either elect a new executive or give the incumbent executive a fresh mandate. It was in recognition of these objectives and respect of the Constitution that the CEC convened the Congress. The BONU Constitution also prescribes for the CEC to present reports by the Secretary General and Treasurer General. It is these two reports that will inform delegates on the performance of the incumbent CEC and help them to make informed decisions when electing a new leadership to carry the Union forward. Sadly, the Secretary General and the Treasurer General were unable to present these very important reports to Congress, as they were interrupted by a select group of delegates that displayed unruly behaviour and interrupted proceedings.
The genesis of events was when suspended members of the CEC approached the courts in December 2015, alleging that the National General Congress was not called within the stipulated time and presenting other two matters intended to prohibit CEC from carrying out its mandate of developing existing infrastructure and increasing membership subscriptions to 1%. BONU filed in defence that they were still within the timeframe of 15 months as stipulated in the Employers and Trade Unions Organization Act. The case was ruled in favor of the Union in all three counts, hence the emphasis to hold the Congress by March.
Before the Congress, the CEC called for manifestos to facilitate identification and vetting of potential candidates, as per Article 12.2.17 read with the entire Article 12.2 of the Constitution. The said Articles allow the CEC to evaluate the credentials of potential candidates and decide on their eligibility and credibility to stand for elections. After this process, seven (7) comrades were vetted out on various grounds ranging from financial standing, disciplinary record and non-compliance.
Three (3) comrades out of the vetted ones (Unangoni Modo, Fondondo Phillip, Peter Baleseng) then approached the Lobatse High Court on Friday 18th March challenging the CECs decision and arguing that it should be set aside. The High Court dismissed their application with costs and upheld the decision of the CEC. The Court decision implied that all the vetted candidates were legitimately sidelined and could not be allowed to disrupt or influence the outcome of the set elections. These Comrades were later joined by Atang Thake, who contravened the Constitution by calling for the entire CEC to be recalled. Comrade Thake deliberately confined himself to Article 20.1 and omitted to pay attention to the entire descriptive and guiding Articles, which confines members to recalling only within their local structures. Comrade Thake sits in a branch committee in Tsabong and is very alien to the CEC structure. In calling for the CEC to be recalled he was in contravention of Article 20.6 of the Constitution and punching way above his weight.
The Comrades could have recused themselves from attending the Conference so as to avoid introducing bias or potentially violating the Court Order. Unfortunately for these Comrades, they chose to attend and went on to incite delegates, while preventing the CEC from balancing the scales. The delegates were fed with falsified, exaggerated and mischievously carved information that was meant to distort the integrity of the CEC in side meetings and informal gatherings which were not brought to the attention of the governing structure (CEC). Over and above their mischievous misinformation, they resorted to rowdiness, riot-like behavior, disorderliness and incitement of delegates, eventually rendering the proceedings of Congress ungovernable. They rose up to speak without being recognized and even went to the extent of physically snatching microphones from delegates who were on the floor. They stormed the podium and compromised the safety of members of the CEC, fellow delegates and invited guests.
In consideration of the progressively deteriorating situation, the CEC discontinued Congress with immediate effect. The CECs powers to discontinue Congress are entrenched in Article 12.2.1 as read with Article 12.2.18 (sic) of the Constitution.
We note with regret that despite the discontinuance of Congress, these ringleaders continue to defy the authority of the CEC and threaten the stability of the Union. We are aware that the above mentioned ringleaders are perpetually convening illegal gatherings under the name of BONU and coercing members to further inflict damage and incite unrest within the Union. We wish to remind them that they are at risk of being in contempt of the Court Order; and also call on our members to ignore any decisions taken at these unconstitutional gatherings. Members are advised to return to work with immediate effect (from 22nd March) and await further communication from the CEC.
We regret the inconvenience caused by these developments and wish to convey our sincere apologies to Union members, delegates and our guests. We also wish to reassure members and our various stakeholders that BONU remains a peaceful, vibrant and viable Union that will continue to execute its mandate of protecting the labor rights and professional integrity of Nurses. We will continue to provide regular updates to our members and stakeholders.
Tebogo Glan Tshenyego
Ruth Segopotso Mokgethi