BMWU goes ahead with lawsuit against gov’t

Under pressure: The BMWU wants an inspection conducted at Mupane Mine
Under pressure: The BMWU wants an inspection conducted at Mupane Mine

FRANCISTIOWN: The Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) is going ahead with a court bid to force the Department of Mines to inspect Mupane Gold Mine and SVU (Pty) Ltd facilities, whom they accuse of violating working conditions of their respective employees.

The union’s suit will be against the Ministry of Minerals Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security (MMGE), which is the department’s parent.

In the first week of October, BMWU filed a notice to MMGE declaring intentions to go to court after 30 days if an inspection was not carried out at Mupane and SVU facilities. The notice period has since lapsed.

“We have received a letter from the department indicating that they will meet with Mupane and SVU management. “We appreciate their efforts but that is not the intervention that the law requires them to make,” BMWU executive secretary Kitso Phiri told BusinessWeek on Wednesday.

Phiri said that the union requested that an inspection be effected as per mining regulations.

“We will be engaging our legal representatives. The intention is to file our application in court (to force the Department of Mines to do an inspection) before the court breaks for holidays,” he stated.

The union accuses both Mupane and SVU of endangering employees by not adhering to various safety regulations within their operations, which is a direct violation of the Mines, Quarries, Works and Machinery Act. Additionally, the union alleges that SUV acknowledged its non-compliance and committed to correcting the non-compliance in a communication dated July 29, 2021. The company (SVU) is subcontracted by Mupane.

The union claims that SVU failed to remedy the lapses and in turn cited Mupane (its principal and mining license holder) as the financier for remedying the lapses.

According to Phiri, the union then informed Mupane management of the non-compliance with mining safety regulations on August 11, 2021, and the responsibilities which the company had towards its employees, but to date, the latter has not acted.

This prompted the union to file an application with the chief government mining engineer in terms of the act, the effect of which sought to cause an inspection of the Mupane operations, including its sub-contracting company. The union claims that the application which it filed in August was never responded to nor was any action taken against Mupane or SVU.

The union according to Phiri, escalated the matter to the director of the Department of Mines, as an authorised officer or specially authorised officer in terms of Section 2 of the Mines and Minerals Act.

“The director has also been indifferent to the union’s request and failed to take appropriate action,” Phiri said.

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