FRANCISTOWN: The Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) hopes that the government will take its grievance over the accommodation situation of former BCL Investment workers in Selebi Phikwe very seriously.
The liquidator of the mine recently issued letters to BCL’s former workers requesting them to vacate the mine houses by the end of January following the expiry of their lease agreements.
At the request of the government, the liquidator decided to indefinitely halt the eviction of the former BCL workers. “Accommodation for our members is at stake. They are prone to eviction. We, however, believe that we have made a strong case as to why the government should continue paying the rent for our members at BCL Mine in Selebi Phikwe,” BMWU president, Jack Tlhagale said. He added, “We have made a request to government to pay rent for our members for the next 12 months. We are waiting for a response. They (members) have been invited by the liquidator to sign new lease agreements. Hopefully, our request will be treated seriously and the lease extension will be for 12 months as per our proposal. A 12-month lease is reasonable and gives our members a sense of security.” BCL former workers will sign new lease agreements next week.
Recently, during a meeting with BMWU members in Francistown, Tlhagale bemoaned that should BCL employees be evicted from their houses, the move will worsen their plight as they are already struggling to make ends meet. Tlhagale added that they (BMWU) would engage government with a view of making sure that former BCL employees are protected from eviction until the liquidation of the mine is complete.
The union has often argued that former BCL employees have nowhere to go because the liquidation of the mine was taken briskly and without consultation, before they could plan for life after losing their jobs.
The union also believe that mine workers should be paid their packages so that they can start their lives post-BCL. The liquidator of the mine, Nigel Dixon-Warren has come close to evicting former BCL workers on several occasions, but government intervened by paying their rentals. In Selebi-Phikwe nearly 4,000 employees at BCL Investment, another subsidiary of the BCL Group, lost their jobs when the company was liquidated in October 2016.
Since then, they have been struggling to meet their basic needs such as paying for rent. The government has also been paying school fees for some children of former BCL employees. Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale, who is directly dealing with BMWU, was not available for comment. His mobile phone rang unanswered. There are reports Cabinet met last week to discuss issues surrounding the liquidation of BCL and the accommodation of the former mine workers.
Late last year, Dixon-Warren said that the postponement in evicting the BCL workers was meant to allow government to procure funds for rentals.
“We are still communicating with government in regards to extending the lease agreements. At this point there is nothing concrete to say,” he said.