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Botswana does not owe the Russians - Keorapetse

MPHO MOKWAPE
Keorapetse PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Selebi-Phikwe West legislator, Dithapelo Keorapetse says that he does not know why the government is willing to pay the Russians, Norilsk Nickel Group a hefty price when they actually do not owe them.

During the PAC appearance by the Administration of Justice, Keorapetse said as far as he was concerned, the country did not owe the Russians since the contract was never signed.

The settlement, that was supposed to reach P522m, has not made it to the Russians as it is still held by Minerals Development Company Botswana (MDCB).

In November 2016, Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest producer of nickel, filed a lawsuit to recover $271.3 million and other costs from BCL Ltd, in relation to a failed 2014 deal under which the local mine was to buy equity from the Russians.

Norilsk Nickel and BCL Ltd entered into a $337m binding agreement in October 2014, for the sale of the Russian group’s 50% stake in South Africa’s Nkomati Mine and its 85% stake in Tati Nickel.

The company alleged that it was owed the money from the aborted sale of a 50% stake in the Nkomati Mine.

BCL Mine had pulled out of the deal due to lack of funds and placed the mine under liquidation.

Despite the government having approved P430m as part of payment to Norilsk, Keoperatse does not see why the country should cough up the hefty price.

In his assertions, he explained that as far as he was concerned the deal between the parties was flawed

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and the contract was never signed. “The government does not owe the Russians any money.

There was no contract signed except that there was interest from the government part to buy a stake in the mine,” he said.

Keorapetse further said the deal was flawed because at the time, the government was not in a position to buy the stake as it was struggling financially.

He explained that it was surprising and disturbing that Norilsk officials were part of the BCL Board while at the same time they were negotiating the deal, knowing well that the government did not have the funds.

“To me, the whole process seems fraudulent and as far as I am concerned we don’t owe the Russians anything,” he said.

On more issues about the BCL, it was reported that the liquidator, Nigel Dixon-Warren was demanding more money despite having already been paid P43m.

Reportedly, the government had written a letter detailing and complaining how the money was too high since he was already paid a lot.

Though he said he was in no position to divulge much information about the issue, Registrar and Master of the High Court, Michael Motlhabi, said it was not clear when the liquidation would wind up.



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