The Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) has learnt of the planned visit by His Excellency the President, Lieutenant General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama to Selebi Phikwe this week.
This is the President’s first visit to the town ever since Government, under his leadership took tragic decision to close BCL Mine in October 2016 (15 months ago). All attempts made by the Union prior and after the closure to reach the President have failed.
President Khama has denied us a chance to present our case to him. Therefore we hope to draw his attention to our deep rooted problems through this release. Our position is that the 10 years of Khama’s Presidency leaves the Mining Industry on its knees and the wider economy uncertain.
* Over the past three years, at least four major mining operations have collapsed resulting in massive job losses estimated at around 8 000 direct jobs and thousands more from companies sub-contracted to the Mines. Discovery Metals, African Copper, Ghaghoo Diamond Mine, BCL LTD and Lerala Diamond Mine are notable examples. In all these cases, President Khama’s Government seems to have no strategy or political will to mitigate the effects of these closures, despite the huge socio-economic costs that resulted therefrom. The most painful part was the deliberate use of liquidation as a method of closing Mines. This made sure that workers went home empty handed without Retrenchment Pay. On the other hand, whilst the Botswana Copper Nickel Mines have collapsed, other countries in the region have revived theirs.
* It is also important to note the ripple effect of the BCL Mine have forced some Parastatals to lay off employees adding to the already high unemployment rate in the country.
* For the town of Selebi Phikwe, the situation is pathetic and does not reflect the image of a caring Government that was portrayed by His Honour, The Vice President, Mr Mokgweetsi
* Attempts to get intervention from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP), Mr Cater Morupisi and the Minister of Mineral Resources Green Technology and Energy Security Advocate Sadique Kebonang did not bear fruits.
* Mr Carter Morupisi Permanent Secretary to the President made unfulfilled promise to meet former BCL employees especially those who were injured by the Mine. On the other hand repeated attempts to engage Advocate Sadique Kebonang were quietly rebuffed. It is important to note that all this happened under President’s Khama watch.
Although most of the damages cannot be undone, even at this late stage we would like to appeal to President Khama’s wisdom to at least encourage his Government to pay former BCL and Tati Nickel employees their terminal benefits so that they can salvage what is left of their lives.
We would also like to call on Government to facilitate the immediate re-opening of the BCL and Tati Nickel Mines or at least create conditions that will make the operations attractive to potential investors. We believe that this is not too much to ask and is the least that President Khama can do for the workers of this country.
Lastly, Khama leaves behind a Privatisation and Outsourcing Policy which has fragmented the workplace in the Mining Industry and has succeeded in eroding the wages of Mine employees and created insecure short-term employment.
Mbignyi Moffat Ramokate