SELEBI-PHIKWE: The liquidation arrived at a time when 36-year-old Ishmael Castro Mmele was grappling with a serious leg injury he sustained when a Load, Haul Dump (LHD) truck ran him over while at work.
The vehicles weigh up to 16 tonnes and the incident left him hardly able to walk. Mmele struggles on crutches to support a right leg that is heavily plastered, supported by heavy metal rods that cover the whole shin area.
Now he cannot secure much assistance because the mine that should be coordinating his medical check ups is under liquidation. He has already missed an appointment with a specialist at the Gaborone Private Hospital (GPH) and it is over six months since the metal rods were inserted into his leg. He does not know how and when he will have them removed because he may have to relocate back to the village after October 31.
Parts of his fractured bones are missing and need to be replaced. He says he was placed under medication to strengthen the bones before they could be stretched to fill up the missing chunks but now he does not know what will happen because he cannot afford the bill at GPH.
“How and when I will have the metal rods removed lies in God’s hands.”
The Maunatlala native met his fate in April 6 while on duty. He slipped as he tried to make way for the oncoming LHD machine. His right leg became stuck under the machine and it ran over him. “First Aid was immediately applied before I was taken to the Mine hospital and later transferred to Mahalapye government hospital where I spent three months,” he says.
He was then told that he needed to be attended to by a private doctor. The mine was supposed to make bookings and other arrangements.
“BCL told me that I would be booked for July and I complained considering that I had spent three months in Mahalapye. That was the last time mine officials communicated to me until a doctor in Mahalapye made a government vote for me to be admitted at GPH.”
He added that he spent only a week at GPH and the issue of a government vote arose as doctors argued that BCL should be footing the bill as he was injured at work.
Mmele says GPH then secured payments from his medical aid but the money was insufficient for the procedure he was booked for. He was discharged after a week but readmitted upon arrival at BCL Hospital as he had contracted a bacterial infection as a result of his long hospital stay.
“I was supposed to see a specialist at GPH last week but when I went to the hospital to confirm the bookings and arrangements I was told that the powers have now been given to the liquidator. This was despite the fact that I am in possession of a guarantee letter from BCL that authorises GPH to duly attend to me. The letter also commits BCL to pay the medical bills.
“I was supposed to be operated on October 21 but go padile. Gatwe ga gona ka fa nka thusiwang ka teng,” he says, with a wistful look.
Every effort he has made to receive assistance has been met with the response that the mine and its affairs are solely in the hands of the liquidator. The only support he receives is to be fetched from home to dress the leg and back to his house.
He never returned to work after the injury and the liquidation came before the process to compensate him.
Having worked in the mine for 16 years, Mmele is yet to see the benefits of his toil. He views his current situation as the work of a thankless system that settled for tough liquidation conditions knowing very well that some employees needed urgent medical attention as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty.
“I lost my mother in 2000 and my father in 2013. I have six children and this is a dilemma. If I had not been injured, I would go and look after my cattle but I am paralysed. My loan with the bank also needs to be settled,” he says.
Another miner who has nothing to thank the mine for is 55-year-old Faniel Mokhuchula, who worked for BCL for almost 30 years and was only earning only P2,500 when it closed. In that 30 years, his starting salary was P174.00 and the amount only crawled to P2,500.
“I have nothing to show for my years. I only managed to build a one-roomed house in Mahalapye as my salary was only enough for rent and grocery. I owe the bank about P45,000 from a P50,000 loan I got. I have no investment let alone livestock to go and look after,” he says.
Mokhuchula tried saving some money in the past but he failed because other commitments overstretched his budget. Come midmonth and he found himself forced to spend his savings.
“Life is going to be a disaster. I have already started searching for a new job because I have 11 children, the last born being 11-months-old, that I have to provide for. So I will relocate immediately because I still hope I can secure another job,” he said.
He regrets having spent his years at BCL and today sees that period as a waste of time. If he cannot find a job, Mokhuchula plans to enrol in government’s poverty eradication programmes.
During the interview with Mmegi, he receives an interview from Bokamoso Hospital informing him that he is booked for medical check up next week. The veteran mineworker cannot honour it however because BCL mine cannot assist.