Mmegi Online :: Poverty reigns supreme at BCL hostels
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Last Updated
Friday 22 June 2018, 06:00 am.
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Poverty reigns supreme at BCL hostels

SELEBI-PHIKWE: The houses that used to house well off, happy and dignified BCL employees now harbours hopeless and poverty-stricken faces. Each day brings misery as occupants dread where the next meal would come from.
By Onalenna Kelebeile Wed 13 Sep 2017, 16:35 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Poverty reigns supreme at BCL hostels








While the Mine’s ex-employees are in a dilemma of facing the reality of having to pay rent amidst the already harsh conditions they are faced with, everyday calls from commercial banks demanding repayment of loans that have not been serviced for a year now, presents yet another agony.

Ipelegeng programme is the only source of income for those households. Some female spouses, who are mostly in their youth, are the ones now providing for their children and retrenched partners. But there is too little for them to survive in a month. Instead of eating their daily rations at the work place, those engaged in Ipelegeng programme take the bread and soft drinks to feed the families. But as Ipelegeng operates on rotational basis, the month the ex-miners’ partners are off, there is literally nothing to feed the family.

To survive the harsh conditions, former Mine employees who own vehicles have resorted to taxi pirating, particularly at health facilities where they offer nursing mothers rides home to pay with at least a bag of Tsabana powder if they have no money for transport. But still that has not alleviated the problem, as the health facilities have for a while now, been without the nutritious Tsabana. A visit to the hostels revealed heart-drenching conditions that occupants live under. Many expressed hope that the BCL Mine could be re-opened so that their lives could bounce back to normal. It never happened that an open fire is kindled inside BCL residences for cooking and warming water, but this is what is obtaining now  as a contingency measure to minimise the use of electricity. Some have already sold their household items to survive.

“We once went to the Social and Community Development offices requesting to be enrolled for monthly food baskets. They came, assessed but told us to sell our household items. They disqualified us just by looking at the goods we had while we were still working, not conditions we are currently in,” said one young woman.

Kemo Kebadile Ithuteng, a former employee who still occupies the hostel says they have not relocated because BCL has not paid them all their dues. He said that is all they are waiting for to decide on their next move. He said with the rental that is commencing at the end of October, they just cannot afford and they are not ready to comply with the new lease. He however said they would just honour it by signing as they are expected.

“We are still appealing to anyone who can assist to advocate for us because the situation is bad. Majority of us even fail to enroll for Ipelegeng. Our self-esteem is at its lowest ebb. We have lost the dignity of being heads of households as our partners are the ones sustaining us through the meager wages they earn through Ipelegeng,” he said.

He added that they have turned out to be so useless that even family contributions for funerals are hard to find because they are even sponsored for bus fares. He said they are expected to give a month’s notice to vacate the houses and to move their property out, but there is no money. He queried that the grading system used to determine the rental of BCL houses was

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for those who are still working. “There is nothing we can do, the liquidator will evict us, but we want all our outstanding dues before we can be ordered out,” he said.

He added that their schoolgoing children survive through meals they eat at school, hence weekends become a nightmare. “We had hopes that the Mine would reopen soon. Many of us are not skilled in any field other than mine work, hence it is difficult to get a job and we are told that we can only access social welfare assistance only if we are disabled,” he said.

Itshekiseng Podise who hails from Kgomokasitwa said government set a bad precedence for private companies to abuse employees through the way he treated former BCL employees. “BCL was government-owned, hence we expect government to be exemplary when it comes to former employees’ welfare. Melelo eya godiwa mo BCL malatsi a ka gore go thata. Some have resorted to sub-letting the houses and receive monthly rentals for sustenance,” he said.

He added that nobody should be held accountable for vandalism of BCL houses because the housing department fails to audit houses daily to identify illegal occupants and conditions of houses like it used to do in the past. “Even when a fault is reported they come after a week,” he said.

Podise argued that vandalism should not be a reason why rental is needed because it is the Mine that is to blame for failure to audit houses.Podise acknowledged that vandalism is rife and said it is because occupants cannot report for fear that it would trigger meter installations that would mean they will have to start paying for water and electricity. “So people decide to keep quiet. We want government to pay us so that we can go and negotiate with banks how we can settle the loans because we don’t want to go to prison,” he said.

Former BCL employees also complained that insurance companies have robbed them because their policies have elapsed and they cannot be refunded the money they have been paying over the years. “We are now told that the policies only cover us when we are dead. This is despite the fact that they patiently paid for maturity periods of six months. We need sympathy from banks and insurance companies because we did not bring the mine situations to ourselves,” he said.

Early this year, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) made an effort to ask for donations from local businesses in the form of food hampers to assist affected ex-employees. However, the efforts hit a snag as the business community also showed that they are equally affected. The Office of the President also could not assist after an appeal was made to them.

BMWU secretary general, Moffat Ramokate confirmed that efforts to solicit donations failed. “There is nothing we can say to the ex-Mine employees yet, but we brought their plight to the Permanent Secretary to the President who promised to visit soon.

We are trying to find a solution through Minister Sadique Kebonang so that if the ex-employees cannot secure jobs, at least they be paid their retrenchment packages,’ he said.

He believed that a positive outcome would come from the 72 potential investors who have shown interest in buying the Mine.

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