Hardly a month after shocking news struck Selebi Phikwe owing to government’s decision to put the economic engine of the region on provisional liquidation, the decision backlash is beginning to hit the once wealthy and lively town very hard.
Early this week, on Monday, thousands of BCL workers (now classified as former) gathered at Itekeng community hall in Newstands, Selibe Phikwe where they met the wrath of Nigel Dixon-Warren, a high court appointed KPMG liquidator. They were given letters that would reveal to them their fate, amid the trouble in the once smoking town.
“BCL Ltd was placed under provisional liquidation by the high court of Botswana 9th October 2016 following stoppage of operations on 7th October 2016.I was appointed as provisional liquidator. Since 7th October 2016 the mine has been placed under care and maintenance; I have no option but to officially terminate your contract of employment with the company, with your last date of shift being 31st October 2016.’’ The letter, seen by this publication, reads in part.
Speaking to WeekendPost after receiving a full Setswana interpretation of the contents of the letter, an industrial class worker with BCL mine who had just started working for number four shaft hardly under a year ago had this to say: “This is a repeat of my experience with Discovery Metal (DML) in February 2015 , when it reaches this kind of letters know that it’s done, (hao bona go tuana go hedile),’’ said Obonye Mokopi, who is a former miner at the now ghost pits of DML/Khoemakhau Boseto Mine in Toteng.
The employment termination letter comes after liquidator, Nigel Warren wrote to the same employees making them aware of inevitable decisions he was to make following the dissolution of BCL Limited, its subsidiaries, BCL Investments and Tati Nickel. The letter also states that employees occupying BCL residences may continue staying in the company houses until further notice but clearly made them aware of the fact that the company will no longer take care of their electricity and water bills from November 30th 2016.
“We are delighted that at least we are given some time to fix our next residence after vacating BCL houses,” one miner observed, loudly reading the letter. The workers are however advised to vacate house as early as now. The termination letter also says that workers’ terminal benefits will be availed to the former employees after the liquidation process is complete and is significantly subject to provision of funds, and availability of such.
Botswana Mine Workers Union revealed this past week that they are unhappy with the way the liquidator treats their members, accusing him of rushing decisions and acting without consultation. “We will meet our legal counsel to explore options and we are ready to constitute a legal suit if advised so,” BMWU President, Jack Tlhagale, told the press after learning of the employment termination of their members and added that, “We fear government and the liquidator might end up not paying workers’ retrenchment benefits accordingly.”
BMWU last week petitioned President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama after a march requesting government to reopen BCL mine. The petition was received by president Khama’s Senior Private secretary, Brigadier General George Tlhalerwa, oh his behalf. On the other hand pressure continues to pile up on Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) as all eyes are on the parastatal to quickly unearth alternative economic activities that will save Phikwe from being Botswana‘s Detroit. According to reports from parliament, SPEDU used a whooping 1.4 million in its recent corporate identity rebranding exercise which is still ongoing.
Speaking to SPEDU Corporate and Communications Manager this week, WeekendPost gathered that SPEDU is still developing a solid PR strategy to give their side of story after weeks of criticism from the public and various stakeholders. “A press conference will be convened soon to engage the media on our stance and progress as SPEDU, any communiqué will be made through our Marketing and Advertisement Agency- Incepta,” said Punah Molebatsi-SPEDU executive.
Head of State, Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama, has yet to comment on the BCL closure. A few weeks before Khama’s four cabinet minister arrived in Phikwe with the devastating news of government enclave‘s decision to put BCL on provisional liquidation, President Khama himself visited BCL mine, in early September and the mine closure it then seemed, was not anywhere in plans.
Meanwhile, many quarters, the opposition included, have called out Khama to voice his opinion and criticised his silence regarding the issue. Only the Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, has graced Phikwe with his presence ever since the shutdown of operations at the BCL.
SMMEs feeling the pinch Whereas mini truck business and relocation logistics business have been flourishing since the provisional liquidation of BCL mine, alongside hotel and conferencing businesses which enjoy business from countless meetings and conferences, the same cannot be said about the SMMES.
Food vendors, vegetables vendors and tuck shops owners are already conceding huge losses, just a few weeks into the mine’s closure. Malebogo Kefentse, a tuck-shop operator in Newstands Township in Phikwe relates that her proceeds have since been on free fall. “Miners used to buy fat cakes and soup here while waiting to board the bus to their respective shafts, and that made huge returns for me.’’
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.