SELEBI-PHIKWE: Councillors in the mining town have expressed their displeasure with government over failure to consult them on the status of the Mine and reports of it possibly reopening.
In the midst of all the BCL Mine reopening hype, the councillors suspect it is a political prank ahead of the general elections.
They said during a full council meeting late last week that authorities choose to make major announcements in the media and they remain short of answers when approached by the community. They added that the BCL issue is a major one that needs proper consultation, but that was not the case even when the Mine closed.
They also resolved to request government to pay former what was promised to them when the Mine was abruptly closed.
However, they said they would have to consult with the workers’ representatives over what the ex-employees are entitled to, so that they are fully informed when they approach government for payment.
Upon closure, the then vice president, Mokgweetsi Masisi announced that ex-miners are entitled to 12 to 18 months’ salaries.
The then energy minister, Sadique Kebonang made that announcement when addressing councillors. Later on, government was advised that there was no such provision under liquidation, but efforts have been made even by the Selebi-Phikwe West legislator, Dithapelo Keorapetse that government should come up with something similar to retrenchment packages to compensate the ex-miners some of who worked for 30 years. Councillor Molefe Molatlhegi had moved that they request government to pay the ex-miners and said lack of payment may be the reason why many of them are still languishing in the Mine houses because they hope for compensation from government.
Councillor Molefi Pilane on the other hand said reports of the possibility of the Mine reopening instil hope in the town, though it may take some time.
He said even if it may not operate to full scale, it will be a welcome development.
He, however, advised that thorough assessment and caution must be taken before reopening to ensure that it becomes an accident-free operation. He said that it is necessary for government to see to it that ex-employees are given their dues.
He also advised that even if the Mine
Councillor, Evelyn Kgodungwe said she is not happy with the reopening reports because many issues were cited as having triggered the Mine’s closure like the Mine being a dangerous operation amongst other things.
She said the trend now shows that all reasons that were advanced were not true.
“The closure has devastated the lives of many people and the local economy. If indeed government wants to reopen the Mine, it must first come and apologise to the community and the nation at large. Yes, ex-miners can be paid, but how is government going to account for the lives lost,” she said.
Kgodungwe said the Mine’s closure did not only economically affect families, but has also resulted in juvenile delinquencies and decline in the town’s academic performance.
She said there is a trend where Mine houses are illegally sub-let to people including civil servants like soldiers and cited incidences where young girls abscond school and stay in houses with men.
“Masisi must come and explain to the community here,” she said.
Phemelo Nthwane said: “We still stick to the announcement that ex-miners would be paid and we want proper consultation on the reopening. Relevant authorities must come and consult us so that we can be in a position to answer when we are asked by the people that we serve.”
She also expressed concern over the parallel statements made by government and that of the liquidator over the Mine reopening.
The liquidator recently said he is not aware of any government efforts to reopen the Mine because government has not made any offer to that effect.
Perhaps dampening the mood even further, he indicated that even if it were to reopen, it would not be to a speed that is being anticipated “because it is a lengthy complex process”.