Part of the reason why BCL was closed has been linked to corruption where millions of Pula were siphoned out of the organization – now the mine’s value is under threat because of catastrophic theft at various sites.
As hundreds of former BCL employees vacate company houses and relocate from Selibe Phikwe, some to return back to their respective villages, and others scout for opportunities elsewhere, vandalism and theft on BCL properties escalate every day. Information gathered by WeekendPost indicates that Vandalism and appliances theft at vacant BCL houses is on the rise. According to Selibe Phikwe Police Station Commander, Superintendent Victor Nlebesi, ever since former miners started vacating the houses some residents have embarked on an endeavor to vandalize and unplug valuable electric appliances from the houses.
Nlebesi who commands the area covering Number 3 and 4 Shafts as well as the central Selibe Phikwe which enclaves BCL Houses notes that the appliances targeted by the culprits include, Airconditioniers, geysers, kitchen fitting – mainly stoves. “We can’t quantify the worth of the damage and stolen material as of now, but we estimate it to be hundreds of thousands pulas,” he said.
“We are talking about high quality stoves, top notch air conditioners and electrical appliances made from valuable material stolen in significantly large numbers so far,” he observed. The Station Commander further observes that the appliances and stolen materials are resold here in Selibe Phikwe and surrounding areas at low prices.
“We are investigating the culprits who we believe to be Phikwe residents, and their customers are mechanical workshop operators and industrial dealers,” Nlebesi indicated in an interview with the media this past week. For theft occurring at the mine site, the Station Commander observed that his area of jurisdiction covers the number 3 and 4 shafts while the Number 1 and 2 under the policing of Botshabelo Police station.
According to Superintendent Nlebesi theft at number 3 shaft includes amongst others megawatts batteries, noting that in October alone, just after the decision to cease operation at the mine, over 20 batteries have gone missing. “20 batteries have been stolen from 3 shaft alone, in October alone and mind you this are batteries worth over P12 000 each, that means we looking at a value of over P100 000 worth of theft in October at just one site,” he explained.
For her part Superintendent Gothusamang Badubi, Station Commander of Botshabelo Police station, BCL main site and Shaft number 1 & 2 as well as stores and the lucrative smelter have not escaped the greed of the thieves. Although she provided sketchy information, Badubi observed that tool boxes and equipment are disappearing at the mine sites.
“We have registered that a number of tool boxes are missing at the main stores department,” she said not revealing the quantity of the boxes already stolen. “We are still investigating the matter but figures before us reveal that about 4 copper plates have been stripped from the smelter.” Information gathered by WeekendPost reveal that copper plates are worth hundreds of thousands pulas each with one toolbox as per the current market price sitting at over P16 000 each.
The Station Commander noted that they are working with BCL Security for protection of the company properties. However according to a source close to the investigations and BCL current administration, some within the company’s security may be implicated in the ongoing crime. “Some of the BCL security personnel and staff from the retained 400 are being questioned by the police,” indicated a source who preferred anonymity
BCL was put on provisional liquidation by its main and only shareholder, Botswana Government on October 7 this year, with mining operations halted on that date effective immediately. When addressing thousands of aggrieved workers this year October Tuesday 11th, just a day after Selibe Phikwe woke up to a shock of BCL dissolution, the Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi assured gatherers in Selibe Phikwe stadium that afternoon that the government will put in place strict measures to secure the mine properties especially the sites which comprises of a smelter arguably one of the best in the world worth almost 1 billion pula.
Masisi was responding to a cautionary plead from one miner during question and comments session. After his appointment Liquidator, Nigel Dixon Warren of KPMG immediately terminated contracts of over 4000 employees on the 31st of October 2016, with the last full salary received that month. Dixon Warren with the power bestowed upon him retained about 400 employees, mainly from the Human Resource Department, Information Technology, Security and a number of mechanical staff members and engineers for dewatering of the shaft, care and maintenance of the mine.
Dixon-Warren told this publication that time that the mine sites, equipment and properties needed to be protected and kept safe to maintain their value and worth which was an important factor in liquidation during selling and acquisition of the mine by potential new owners. BCL senior staff houses situated at the commonly known as “Tshaba Ntsa” suburbs are worth over 500 million pula alone. And the company is valued at over $800 million; with the most valuable asset being the smelter which was recently refurbished at a cost of over 700 million pula. Efforts to get views from the government enclave and current BCL administration were unsuccessful as Minister Sadique Kebonang’s phone rang unanswered while BCL liquidation team declined commenting on the matter.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.