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BMWU rejects reports of ex-miners' in civil imprisonment

CHAKALISA DUBE
FRANCISTOWN: Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) senior officials have vehemently disputed reports that some of their members are languishing in prisons as a result of civil imprisonment.

Union leaders made the announcement when addressing their anxious members in Francistown on Monday this week at their offices. 

More than two years ago, over 4,000 mineworkers lost their jobs at Tati Nickel Mining Company (TNMC) and BCL mines as a result of the closure of the two mines that are under the BCL Group.

The development led to a majority of those who lost their jobs, defaulting on their loans acquired from various commercial banks.

Last month, Assistant Education minister, Thato Kwerepe, speaking on behalf of the defence minister, said 106 people had been thrown into civil imprisonment since 2016, the year when BCL and Tati closed down.

At the time, Kwerepe was responding to a question on the matter from Selebi Phikwe West MP, Dithapelo Keorapetse.

On Monday, unionists said they had conducted investigations into the reports and no grounds had been found.

“We have been to Selebi-Phikwe prisons and made rounds at almost all prisons facilities around the country, but we have not found any of our members who have been arrested in relation to not maintaining their debts, especially loans acquired from commercial banks,” BMWU general secretary Mbiganyi Ramokate, who addressed members along with other executive members, said. 

He added,

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”What we have since established is that some former BCL employees are imprisoned for various criminal offences”.

Ramokate added that the union has met authorities from various commercial banks and made them aware of financial problems their members who lost jobs at BCL are currently going through.

“We do not know when issues surrounding the plight of former BCL workers, especially payment of their packages (so that they can clear their debts) will be resolved, but we have pleaded with banks to exercise patience. We have hope that they will maintain their patience while we are still trying to engage the government and concerned stakeholders to establish a solution on matters surrounding BCL,” Ramokate said. 

He also dismissed reports that the union has abandoned those who lost their jobs at BCL. He accused politicians of peddling talk that the relationship between the union and former BCL employees has broken down irretrievably. He stated that politicians are doing so for political expediency.

“They portray themselves as people who can quickly resolve issues surrounding the BCL Mine in order to attract votes. Our relationship with former BCL employees is still very intact,” a visibly concerned Ramokate told former BCL employees.



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