The minerís wife

Onalenna Modikwa-Kelebeile is Mmegi Senior reporter based in Phikwe
Onalenna Modikwa-Kelebeile is Mmegi Senior reporter based in Phikwe

FRANCISTOWN: Heavy silence filled their living room. The silence came on the heels of the abrupt closure of the BCL Mine, which at supersonic speed was placed under judicial management.

Putting her miner’s wife cap aside, Mmegi scribe based in Selebi-Phikwe, Onalenna Modikwa-Kelebeile used her sixth sense to pursue the breaking story of the abrupt closure of the mine.  This was her quick way of breaking the silence that had enveloped their living room.

Being the miner’s wife, she knew there was no escape; she had to pack her notebook, camera and pen and possibly cry later.  This was a frustrating moment in the life of a journalist who has covered stories on other people’s lives.  This time around she found herself pursuing a story that affected her  so deeply because it was personal. 

This particular story about her husband’s job loss is right at her doorstep and inside that living room.

Getting closer to the BCL story has also helped the Mmegi scribe accept the fate that has befallen her miner husband.

She had a choice of locking herself up in their bedroom and privately mourning the closure of the mine that robbed her husband of a job that brought bread to the family table.  She instead balanced between informing the nation and mourning the reality that her husband was from October 8, jobless.

It was tough for Mmegi’s 36-year-old scribe, who found herself chasing the BCL Mine closure story and its related articles incessantly and having to comfort her husband, assuring him that she will stand by his side during these tough times.

She has churned out countless stories depicting the reality at the BCL Mine.  It only takes a courageous and brave journalist to have ignored the pain she was going through in her own house.

She had told herself that even journalists are human beings too and have to endure the pain others endure during tough times like sudden job loss. She knew she had to do her job after all, no matter how painful the situation at home.  The BCL Mine closure is a national story that deserved to be told as it unfolded, she had to tell herself.

Modikwa-Kelebeile had to be strong as she juggled both roles as wife and senior reporter at her office. 

She was among the first reporters to break the story of the BCL closure and it was only logical for her to follow it as it developed further until it reached its logical end.

She is not the only journalist affected by the fall of the BCL Mine as many others across media houses are equally affected.

She acknowledged that in her entire relationship with her employer spanning about 12 years of news headlines from Selebi-Phikwe, she has never witnessed what has suddenly hit the town.

She has previously witnessed factories that had employed hundreds of workers in the town closing shop leaving workers in limbo.  She agreed that the closure of the BCL Mine means the fall of an irreplaceable giant in the economic chain of the mining town.

As a mother of two, she has put aside the sorrow of her husband losing a job and put her whole energy in telling the story of the fall of the BCL Mine.

 As the BCL has been the anchor company that single-handedly kept the town alive, she now wonders what will become of the town post-mining.

“I don’t know what is going to happen to our short-term and long-term plans. 

But, one thing for certain, I will stand by my family until the situation changes again,” she said, insisting that she always put her family first.

Modikwa-Kelebeile said her husband is having a hard time after losing his job.  At least, he has been getting assurances from her that this is a passing phase and it shall be well.

She added that since life is all about taking risks, they also have financial commitments that they will have to grapple with in the midst of the job losses.

She, however, is worried about the school fees subsidy that they enjoyed from Kopano English Medium School where the BCL Mine paid for their first-born pre-schooler son.

The BCL Mine paid the school fees for a year and deducted from its employees’ salaries and this accorded miners an opportunity to place their children at better schools.

The heavy silence that filled up their house after receiving the news of the mine closure is now water under the bridge as Modikwa-Kelebeile and her husband have accepted their fate. They console each other that there is life after the BCL Mine.

Editor's Comment
A Call For Government To Save Jobs

The minister further shared that from the 320 businesses that notified the Commissioner of Labour about their plans to retrench, 20 were acceded to, which resulted in 204 workers being retrenched during April 2020 and July 2021.The retrenchments were carried out while the SoE was in place, meaning the companies that succeeded must have had solid reasons, despite the strict SOE regulations imposed on businesses to not retrench. We are left with...

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