Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has rejected a proposal tabled by opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to save the beleaguered BCL mine, which is headed for possible closure.
When addressing the media this week, BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, dismissed UDC’s efforts as political grandstanding aimed at scoring political points amid a desperate situation.
“They have sought to cash some political brownie points from the problems engulfing BCL mine in Phikwe. The fact of the matter is that it is only Government that can bring relief to BCL,” he said.
“There is absolutely nothing UDC can do to assist BCL. They cannot offer any financial guarantees, tax exemptions, loan guarantees or any form of bailout, which is what the BDP government has been doing every time BCL find itself in distress.”
Two weeks ago, UDC called a press conference, addressed by party Secretary General, Ndaba Gaolathe and president, Duma Boko, during which the former called on government to open avenues of national dialogue for stakeholders in order to save the financially riddled BCL.
Gaolathe remarked that it was clear 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 had 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.”
Ntuane has however expressed that the BCL situation has been occasioned by the plummeting of commodity prices.
“In huge economies like Brazil and Australia, privately owned copper mines have shut down. The same applies in neighbouring Zambia where thousands have lost jobs because of this problem,” he stated.
The former legislator also said the fact that BCL continues to survive, albeit in challenging circumstances is because it is a nationalised operation and government still refuses to abandon the mine.
“This is a compassionate government that has at heart the interests of BCL workers, as well as the town of Selebi Phikwe itself and its surrounding communities. Workers must not be misled by the rhetoric and political opportunism of UDC because that won’t improve their situation,” he said.
Gaolathe had argued, when addressing the media that, BCL’s problems are not entirely because of the commodity prices, as he noted that, incompetent leadership in the board and at management level have the larger share of blame.
Gaolathe said 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 and added that, “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.”
BDP also questioned the P6 billion suggested by the UDC as money required to save the fortunes of BCL. Ntuane said UDC leadership was ‘throwing figures around’ without anything which informed their statement.
Also speaking at the BDP press conference was Deputy Secretary General, Shaw Kgathi who said UDC never thought about the impact the amount they suggested could be used to bail BCL would have on the economy.
Kgathi said Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila has engaged team of experts with the view of soliciting a well informed analysis of the situation and what ought to be done by government.
Gaolathe had opined that government do not necessarily need to be the one financing the whole P6 billion, as he noted that a proportion of the amount can be through debt.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.