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BCL is kaput! – Liquidator

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.


INTERESTED BUYERS


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%.

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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