Minister of Mineral Resources, Energy Security and Green Technology, Sadique Kebonang has said that there is nothing sinister about the decision to close BCL, further indicating that parliament will have the final say on its sale.
The sudden closure of BCL in October last year has left the town of Selebi Phikwe in economic turmoil with many theories being peddled with regards to what led to the mine being closed. The closure of BCL, which include the Tati Nickel Mine, has seen at least 6000 people being left jobless. “Some people were alleging that this was a political decision to fix someone, but the truth is that the decision was a business decision taken on the basis of facts presented before us,” he said.
“At the time BCL was closed, it had only P10 million in its bank account, and remember this is the same company which had just received P1 billion bailout from government.” He said it was clear BCL was not making profit at the time of closure and had accumulated huge debts. The BCL wage bill stood at P65 million at the time the mine was closed, Kebonang revealed.
There were reports that, cabinet which has consistently bailed out BCL in the past, took the decision to end Minister Nonofho Molefhi’s political hopes. Molefhi is challenging Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairmanship billed for Tonota next weekend. This suggestion has however been previously dismissed by Masisi as ‘mischievous’. Molefhi is seen as having presidential ambitions and having the potential to disrupt President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s best laid succession plans.
Since the closure of the mine there have been attempts to sell the mine to different foreign companies but with little success so far. Kebonang told the media this week that although there are some companies which have expressed interest to buy the BCL Mime, some decided against doing it after doing their own due diligence. “That in fact shows that the closure of BCL was a business decision because some do not find a business case in it, and choose not to take it after conducting their own due diligence,” he said.
The minister however mentioned that an assessment which has been done indicates that two shafts in the BCL are economically viable but government has not received the right offer so far. After negotiations have been completed, the sale of BCL will be brought before parliament which will have a final say on the matter. “We do not know what will happen eventually because parliament will have a final say, what we have agreed may be rejected,” he said.
With BDP enjoying majority in parliament and party MPs bound by caucus to support party motion and bills, the sale of BCL will go on once cabinet has approved. Kebonang said before entering into an agreement with any company over the sale of BCL they will do due diligence and only accept it if government is satisfied that the company is viable because they are looking at long term sustainability. The minister indicated that Tati Nickel mine has been spared from the BCL group with its fortune believed to be better.
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.