UDC President Duma Boko and Secretary General Ndaba Gaolathe
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leadership have called on government to open avenues of national dialogue for stakeholders in order to save the financially riddled BCL from closing its operations.
At a press briefing addressed by the party’s top two; President Duma Boko and Secretary General Ndaba Gaolathe, the latter noted that if no further action is taken, the BCL crisis will lead to economic misery for the ten thousands of people employed and dependent communities.
Gaolathe affirmed that there is a real danger of BCL closure, which will collapse Selibe Phikwe as well as a chance of precipitating a recession of the entire country’s economy despite the fact that the crisis could be averted.
“There is need to forge a national dialogue on BCL and mining in general to lay bare the seriousness of the financial and economic challenges faced by the BCL,” he said.
“We should bring stakeholders together to find robust collective solution and demonstrate that BCL could be an opportunity for the country, not just gloom, if we get it right.”
The UDC former policy chief revealed that the assessment carried by the party indicates that government needs about P6 billion capitalisation to save the mine and re-energise it to be more profitable.
“It does not need to be government equity to finance it, proportion of it can be debt,” he said.
Unbundling the factors which have contributed to the current BCL crisis, Gaolathe pointed out that the government has flouted fundamentals such as appointment of relevant, skilled and competent people in high positions.
“Of course some of the causes like the decline in commodity prices in the international market are beyond our control but we failed to get fundamentals right, which is something that we need to re-look into,” he said.
Gaolathe remarked that it was wrong for government to have had Akolang Tombale presiding over BCL Board because of his track record at Botswana Meat Commission (BMC). BMC is another financially ruined parastatal.
“Government intervention has been ineffectual because of failure to appoint high impact board members, which in turn led to failure to appoint a high impact CEO and management,” he expressed.
“Finding the right people is not a difficult task because we can identify them. We know them. We can sit down and agree that these are people who are knowledgeable. They do not have to be UDC or BDP (Botswana Democratic Party); they just need to be high impact people.”
The Gaborone Bonnington South lawmaker also said if government as a shareholder appoint the right people in the board, who are meritorious in their own right, the rest as far as the CEO, middle management and artisans will fall into place.
Gaolathe also faults government for failing to implement its standards as a policy maker, implementer and regulator by not taking punitive action against those who were found to have acted in an unacceptable manner.
“Government is failing to implement its own safety standards. Investigations are done but no consequences for breach of standards. There is lack of universal standards for various service providers or contractors operating in the same mine,” he noted.
The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) president indicated that the model that BCL is using now is not feasible because of outsourcing majority of operations in the mine. “BCL should find a way of doing its own mining,” he said.
The crisis which has engulfed the state owned mining company is largely due to money owed to the creditors. In April this year, government was able to bail out the mine with P1.1 billion after underwriting a loan from Barclays Bank, with the money expected to go mostly to creditors.
Gaolathe also called on government to re-look the Polaris II strategy because it is going to be very expensive.
“We need to re-prioritise, select few projects and narrow it down so that it is more focused,” he suggested.
He said in order to save the BCL, government should realise that the mine needs major capital injection, mainly equity with long term view, strict finance timing and structuring of terms, not knee-jack reactions.
Gaolathe also raised issues such as revision of workman’s compensations standards for workers, providing tripartite forum for mining sector to partake in collection action such as investigations, implementation of investigations and other forms of negotiations.
Chipping in the presentation, party president, Boko underscored that part of the reason the opposition has not been able to influence policy is because of the attitude of government.
“When we present these views, ministers become defensive because they are thinking that we are criticising them,” he said.
Boko said there is a lot of secrecy in the government which has made it difficult for them as opposition to access necessary information such as the financial statements of the BCL.
Boko said government is in fact failing to acknowledge that it is facing a serious crisis in the BCL.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.
“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).