Vice President Slumber Tsogwane, who is also Member of Parliament for Boteti West will intervene in a long standing dispute involving the Debswana Mining Company, its employees and Ministry of Environment, Conservation, Natural Resources and Tourism.
Tsogwane who has been touring his constituency met with management of Debswana’s Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines as well as employees this week to address a number of issues. Top of the agenda was the controversial scannex machine. The device will be used to replace the search system which is conducted in high risk areas where workers are obliged to take off their clothes to be searched.
The development to install security gadgets is said to make a local operations at par with other mines especially in South Africa. However there is a resistance from the employees, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) and Minister of Natural Resources Tshekedi Khama. The argument from those who are against the installation os scannex is that: “the radiation from the machinery is hazardous to the employees.” There has been a delay in approving the scannex machine as the government through the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is stalling the approval.
Following the deliberations with both employees and management, Tsogwane has decided to take the matter with Debswana Managing Director, Balisi Bonyongo. “This has been noted and it is a serious matter, I will engage Mr. Bonyongo very soon to see how best to deal with the matter.” he said briefly amid a thunderous applause from the floor.
According to Debswana, 36 percent of the workers smuggle diamonds out of its mines by hiding them in the anus, 30 percent hide them between their buttocks, 14 percent use their socks and hair, 5 percent conceal the gems in their mouths, 2 percent place the gems under their scrotum, 2 percent hide them in their clothes, 2 percent use their underwear and 10 percent use other means.
The VP has nonetheless not committed the timeframe with the unhappy lot as to when he will meet with the Debswana chief to discuss the delicate matter, according to sources. WeekendPost has been informed by a high ranking Debswana employee who was part of the meeting that employees also used the opportunity to speak about the need for increment of staff salaries.
“It is a serious matter of which the VP discussed with us and for now there is nothing to do since superiors are dealing with the issue. Moreover it is not like we only discussed the scan thing, we talked to a number of other pressing issues including the salary increment,” said the source.Debswana had planned a close to P50 million installations of ten upright, full-body Scannex X-ray scanners at four of its diamond mines in Botswana. Four scanners were to be installed at security checkpoints at Jwaneng, four at Orapa and one each at the Letlhakane and Damtshaa mines.
Under the system 200 scan can be conducted annually. However pregnant women would be exempted and will be given new roles to avoid being scanned. Debswana according to sources has already received approval from the Radiation Protection Inspectorate, but has been turned down by DEA.
Meanwhile, it is noted that the Scannex has a low X-ray radiation dose that allows for quick scan time. Its operations are fully automated and X-rays are automatically turned off should any error occur. Each machine has a built-in dose area product, or DAP, meter that measures the X-ray dose whenever a scan takes place. The Scannex’s dose limit is one millisievert per year (mSv/y) per individual, which is in line with the International Commission on Radiology Protection limit of one millisievert per year for members of the public.
In the past various stakeholders including specialist-Disease Control Dr Nkomo pointed out during a stakeholder’s consultative meeting that all should be done to protect people’s eyes from over exposure to radiation as they are very sensitive. “My understanding is that radiation has no threshold; dealing with radiation is not straightforward given that there are causes that may exacerbate cases, like the genetic make-up of individuals.”
The company has already installed these gadgets in other mines in South Africa and Namibia. On the other hand Eunice Mpoloka, senior projects manager has in the past stressed the significance of the development. After the reviews the outcomes revealed weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The two reviews were followed by an internal one that confirmed security at the mines leaves a lot to be desired.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.