BCL is not likely to resume operation anytime soon, the company provisional liquidator, Nigel Dixon Warren revealed this week Tuesday. Furthermore, Dixon Warren revealed, February 7 2017 contrary to popular belief, is not the date in which the liquidation period ends, but only a return date where the court will decide the final fate of the company.
“There is absolutely no intention to restart operation at the mines , no prospects or what so ever, not anytime soon ,either after February 7th or 1st meeting of creditors and we are looking at possibly beyond 2017,” he said emphasizing that currently there are no resources available to finance operations.
“I have currently placed the mines under care and maintenance, that decision was very paramount to safeguard the assets and preserve the company value,” he explained. Dixon Warren revealed that he was advised by professional smelter experts to shut down the BCL smelter which is the most valuable asset of the company, explaining that it would be very costly to keep it running until final liquidation is complete.
“When I arrived here the Smelter was shut down from 7th October as per order by the main shareholder; the government, but the BCL engineers advised me to restart it and operate it at a warm temperature as it gets damaged and looses value when it’s not operational, but I later engaged an expert who consulted the manufactures of the smelter and we arrived to a conclusion that it would cost us 5 million pula per month on fuel alone to keep the smelter operational , thus I decided to shut it down.”
“It is not usually the procedure within liquidation dealings for the liquidator to address media and issue out information to the public, but considering the amount of public interest in this matter, I have seen it fit to assemble the media and clear out certain misconceptions and misunderstandings making rounds in the publication circles that are also polluting public knowledge consumption,” further highlighted Dixon Warren at the Tuesday press briefing in Selibe Phikwe.
He unpacked that on February the 7th, 2017, the High Court will decide if the companies being BCL Limited, BCL Investments, and Tati Nickel Mine should be placed under final liquidation or the initial reasons presented to the Court can be dismissed. “The order granted in 9th October 2016 to wind up the companies was only a provisional liquidation or rule nisi,” he said. “Per the court order any interested party may apply to high court to prevent the Court not to grant the final order which winds up the company’s liquidation.”
According to him the court can decide to extend the provisional liquidation period and delay the final winding up (complete liquidation) order if it deems it necessary. He further noted that for the final liquidation order to be delayed or not be granted, it would require a clear demonstration satisfactory to the court that the companies were not insolvent.
“That’s to say who ever the interested party logging that application would be, will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt why the winding up petition should be dismissed, of which according to my assessment all the three companies are fatally insolvent, like they have no money or funds or whatsoever and have been making massive losses,” he said.
BEYOND FEBRUARY 7TH 2017
Nigel who is a well experienced professional housed under KPMG Chartered Accountants Advisory observed that it is in the best interest of all the creditors that the companies be finally wound up into liquidation process followed to its conclusion. According to him, “After February the 7th this year, the formal liquidation process commences.” He further added that the winding up process includes holding meetings of creditors and sale of assets, a process he revealed takes months to over a year.
“What happens is that at the return date if there is no application to dismiss the final liquidation order, the Master of the High Court who oversees the liquidation now takes the reins and convenes a formal meeting of creditors.” Furthermore, he revealed, creditors meetings are held so that they (creditors) can prove their claims against the companies (i.e. have them recognized as the creditors in the liquidation) so that they can issue instructions to the liquidator and ultimately receive payment against their claim (a dividend) at the end of liquidation process.
This, he said, would be if there are sufficient funds realized in the sale of assets to cover the costs of the liquidation and pay a dividend to creditors. Warren Dixon also revealed that erstwhile directors of the companies will be required to attend the two meetings of creditors so that they can answer questions by creditors and the liquidator.
“I am only a provisional liquidator appointed by the High Court, at the 1st meeting of creditors, the proven creditors now nominate the final liquidator, this isn’t always the same person as provisional liquidator but in many cases creditors appoint the same person for continuity as the provisional liquidator would already be familiar with the liquidation and insolvent company records,” he explained. He also indicated that at that meeting, he as the provisional liquidator will present a report written in terms of Section 44 of the companies Act.
“This report provides creditors with details of assets and liabilities of the companies and a reason as to why the entities failed in the first place. It was also observed that if the BCL companies are put on final liquidation on the 7th February 2017 it is expected that the first meeting of creditors be held in April 2017.
Dixon-Warren noted that the date of the meeting is not set by the provisional liquidator but by the Master of the High Court. “I have to prepare a report and submit claim forms to all known creditors. Considering that these companies are relatively many I will need time after February 7th to undertake this,” he further stipulated.
The BCL Undertaker further added that the second meeting of creditors of which the reins will be with the final liquidator who might not be him, will give an opportunity to creditors to further prove their claims. “Ordinarily this second meeting occurs between three to six months after the first, and the final liquidator will report on the affairs of estate and will be given direction from the creditors as to the sale of the assets.”
THE RUSSIAN NORILSK MATTER
The Liquidator also cleared misconceptions on the Russian Norilsk matter which has been making rounds , BCL had entered into an a share purchase agreement with Norilsk Nickel Mauritius and Norilsk Nickel International Holdings Limited to acquire Norilsk interest in South African Nkomati Mine and Tati Nickel Mine in Francistown.
Dixon Warren explained that prior to the liquidation there was a dispute between parties to the agreement as to whether the conditions precedent was met and therefore whether the contract has full force and effect. “Since Norilsk has taken the matter to court at the High Court of Botswana and in London, there are no further comments I can make on the issues,” he said observing that once the issue is dealt with at the court of law, if the case went in favor of Norilsk they can approach him and claim their rightful argument as a creditor He also revealed that BCL has a number of creditors which the company had entered into operational contracts with.
He further clarified that Pula Steel, contrary to the belief of many, is not part of BCL or BCL Investment, stating that it’s a separate entity in which BCL has shares and is not affected by BCL’s liquidation. “As a matter of fact Pula Steel owes BCL millions in dividends, it is actually one of the few debtors which will have to pay us soon,” he explained adding that RealZim , MTO, Glecon , Zimbabwean Copper companies also owe BCL a few chunks of millions, but emphasized that BCL creditors sit at billions all together.
Though no formal offers have been made yet and far from being put forth, the liquidator revealed that a number of interested parties, both local and international have expressed interest in the mine. According to Warren any conclusion to sell will be considered after the second meeting of creditors observing that it will only be looked into if it’s in the best interest of the creditors. He however stressed that even if sold, the mine would need time before reopening as it would require restructuring, refurbishment of equipment and re-designing of shafts to start up the mine on profitability.
FORMER BCL EMPLOYESS
“As we all know I was forced to terminate over 4000 employees contracts, I have paid terminal benefits to almost all of them, only just over 180 have not yet received their benefits,” he explained, adding that reasons were that the 180 are still yet to be contacted, some changed addresses amongst other reasons.
He observed that he initially retained about 400 employees to help him with care and maintenance but have reduced the number to just over 350. “I have fired some of my staff and re-hired some of the initially terminated, because I operate under a limited budget and time so I cannot afford incompetent staff,” he asserted.
Furthermore, he revealed that all former BCL employees who occupied staff houses have been allowed to stay in the houses. “We have signed leases with them up to 31st October 2017, and as per our agreement the occupants will not be paying rent in return we want them to keep the houses in good shape and suitable state, however as stated before, occupants will pay for their own utilities bills,” he said”.
BCL which has been in operation for the past 40 years was put under provisional liquidation last year October 9th after operations were halted 2 days earlier. Meanwhile, reports indicate that copper and nickel prices have bounced back by 20%.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”