Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse has called on Government particularly Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security to intervene in crises he terms “soiling of BCL value”. Keorapetse says BCL mine which was closed in October 2016 deteriorates everyday under liquidator Nigel Dixion Warren posing a serious threat to the value of the mine and making it unattractive to potential investors day after day.
BACKGROUND ON BCL CLOSURE
BCL faced its demise in October 2016 when government took a drastic decision to place the mine under provisional liquidation. Official reasons from the sole shareholder was that copper and nickel were poorly performing on the international market, and that BCL was running at perennial losses making it too steep for government to continue with recapitalisation.
After taking over as provisional liquidation in 2016 Nigel Dixon Warren, tasked with the safe and proper dissolution of BCL Group sent over 5000 BCL workers packing and immediately announced the reinstatement of 400 employees. The retained workers remained onsite undertaking the care and maintenance of the mine shafts, equipment and the smelter. At liquidation BCL assets were valued at over P10 billion with the smelter alone valued at over P3 billion.
Care and maintenance is a term used in the mining industry to describe processes and conditions on a closed mine site where there is potential to recommence operations at a later date. During a care and maintenance phase, production is stopped but the site is managed to ensure it remains in a safe and stable condition. In the case of BCL, the care and maintenance process involved safe dewatering of the mine underground shafts and high level management of environmental risks.
The retained workers were tasked with maintenance of the smelter, ore processing plant, equipment and most importantly securing the mine assets and the whole site. This was initiated with a view that BCL which has been in operation for the past 40 years before closure would rise to economic feasibility upon recovery of copper and nickel commodity prices in the global market.
Botswana Chamber of Mines Chief Executive Officer Charles Siwawa, a renowned mining expert shared with this publication in 2016 that the mine could still be operational under a restructured business model, explaining that the underground resource still contained high grade ore deposits is some BCL shaft. “Care and maintenance is a pivotal undertaking in the liquidation process of a complex and large scale industrial company like BCL , it will be vital to safeguard the value of the mine and prevent deterioration of its assets which could later compromise the mine’s worth before potential investors”
CURRENT STATUS OF THE MINE
However two years later after BCL closure the Area MP says under the current status of BCL and custodianship of Nigel Dixon Warren it will be difficult for government to find any interested investor, who would recommence operation of the mine and bring Phikwe back to life. He particularly eludes that BCL Liquidator is doing a poor job as far as safeguarding the mine value and its asset. Recently reports have been coming in , suggesting that there are earth tremors felt from underground causing fears and suspicion that Phikwe and surrounding areas might collapse in due time.
According to reports from Phikwe a rumbling sound hits the town and surrounding areas on a regular basis, both during the day and at night, discharging some quakes and waves that shake buildings and resident houses. Keorapetse says safe for safety and environmental ramification, the experienced tremors signals complete decay of the mine‘s underground components as Nigel Dixon Warren is failing dismally to capacitate and monitor effective protection and safeguarding of the BCL assets.
Recently Liquidator relieved some of the care and maintenance employ of their duties on the basis that the wage bill was stretching his allocated funds, a decision that received backlash from observers and commentators. Former BCL mine geologist told WeekendPost this week that “ineffective dewatering of the underground shaft would result in complete decomposition of the mine making it extremely difficult to resuscitate the mine to operation once identified investors avails the funds.
“It will be extremely costly to return back BCL to operation if the care maintenance employ is doing a shoddy job , if the underground assets lose value by day BCL might never be reopened” he said. Keorapetse further dismisses a team assembled by Department of Mines to investigate the issue saying they lack the technical ability to handle such a highly technical study.
“We have been informed that Minister Molale has dispatched a team of Department of Mines to Phikwe. I’m also informed that the team has been asking people in the town some questions regarding the tremor; this is laughable because this is not a sociological, Economic, demographic survey, it is a complex scientific study that should involve geotechnical engineers or rock mechanics,” she said. According to Keorapetse the authorities sent to Phikwe do not have the necessary expertise and experience to conduct proper investigation as well as technical knowhow.
“There is no Geotechcial Engineer/Rock mechanics engineer at the Department of Mines that can do proper investigations. Going around interviewing people presupposes that the authorities are clueless and incompetent and cannot help with providing answers to what is happening,” he said. The Phikwe West lawmaker saidno one can help with this phenomenon apart from ex-BCL employees or experts sourced from outside government.
He said Liquidator has decided to run the Care and Maintenance process with expatriates who do not have the right skills citing the current General Manager overseeing Care and Maintenance who according to him is not a mining engineer by profession. “He is a misplaced expatriate and can’t help us take a good care of this important national asset. We need institutional memory to handle a complex environment like BCL,” reiterated the Phikwe legislator.
He suggested that exercises by Liquidator to lay off some care and maintenance staff last year December got rid of all skilled and experienced staff that were heading the shafts and replaced them with people that are fresh from school. “What is he trying to achieve from that? Obviously it’s cost cutting at the expense of Care and Maintenance. I call upon department of mines and labour to do serious audit of labour requirements for such a technically complex and high risk undertaking of Care and Maintenance of BCL mine,” he said.
During the last sitting of parliament Minister of Mineral Resources Eric Molale told legislators that he was in a process to part ways with BCL Liquidator but was prevented by the law as liquidator was appointed by the High Court. “We may need to relook at the law; I don’t think someone who has spent years in accounting should be permitted to take care of anything to do with mining at that scale without being at least compelled to hire specified highly specialized technical staff. Everyday BCL is becoming unattractive to potential investors because it’s deteriorating under the Liquidator” reiterated Keorapetse.
Nigel Dixon Warren has since rubbished Keorapetse‘s claims saying he had confidence in his stuff. Dixon Warren said dewatering of the underground shafts was progressing well. He denied claimed that there was some blasting being carried out underground also adding that it is far-fetched to suggest any of the shafts could collapse when they did not do so during the mining years when blasting occurred daily. Department of Mines told WeekendPost on Wednesday that a team of experts is on the ground conducting investigation at the mine which would inform how government progress going forward.
Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.
Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.
Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.
One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution
Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.” Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.
She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age. Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.
Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.
Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.
For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.
Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.
The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare. Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.
According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned. It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.
“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said. Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.
The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.
The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.
The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.” The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana. It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.
“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.
Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.
“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversiﬁcation of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly. It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).
“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.
Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.
The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.
“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said. The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.
The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.
“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).
Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.
After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.
They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.
“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.
They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”
They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.