BCL Managing Director, Daniel Mahupela this week rebuffed calls for him to resign despite the worst financial strain experienced by the mining company he is overseeing.
Mahupela has said he will not resign as he believes that the company is still a viable business and he, together with other top management, will stay put as they are currently embarking on a “new BCL – business reorganization”.
Mahupela joined the organization in September 2011 – taking over from Montwedi Mphathi. Countless employees out of the 4 300 mine labour force face retrenchment as the financial crisis bedeviling the company continues.
Speaking to Weekend Post shortly after a press briefing on Wednesday in Gaborone Mahupela said he would not resign since the non-performance of the company is attributed to shrinking of the market and nickel prices, and not him.
“Why should I resign? And yes I could resign only if we had control over the nickel price – then possibly that’s when we could be accountable,” he said when asked by this publication if he does not find the need to relinquish the MD position as they (management) are answerable for the current financial mess due to poor planning and lack of oversight.
Instead, Mahupela said the current financial situation is a result of market forces and other factors that have conspired to deprive them of the projected revenue and of pursuing their strategic intentions under Polaris II. He said the mess can also be qualified to decline in commodity, below budget production from underground operations and smelter shutdown funding issues.
“Right now if you want to take out the rest of the management then you will be essentially taking out the business, because now the guys that are guaranteeing us, the guys that are lending us money, they are actually looking at us, they will actually say they base on the fact that we are there, they will do their due diligence again. And again the bank will not give us money if they sniff something fishy about us,” he justified.
Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe East Dithapelo Keorapetse, who BCL falls under his auspices as area MP, has made earlier calls for “BCL executives and the board to own up and take responsibility for this mess”. In fact he moved an urgent motion in Parliament calling for a commission of inquiry into BCL cash flow problems and other incidental problems saying those responsible for the mess should be “fired”.
However the BCL MD emphasized to this publication that “we just need to re-organise that’s it.” He added that initially BCL was supposed to close in 2013, but they ran around and did their best to extend the lease of life for the mine.
As a result he stressed that he is satisfied with his performance as the captain of the ship.
Government rejected BCL bailout, parley approved Barclay loan
Government is the sole shareholder of BCL Mine and solely responsible for either pumping in further capital or approving/underwriting external debt arrangements.
As such area legislator, Keorapetse previously said that government should intervene through a bail out and a good strategy to save jobs and the mine.
However, Mahupela told Weekend Post that government had rejected their request for a bail out citing insufficient funds for the undertaking. However Barclays Botswana loaned the struggling BCL 1.1 billion pula after Parliament intervened.
“Government can put in money if they have, but she has said clearly that they don’t have the money to bail us out.”
Corruption, imprudent management of money at BCL
BCL Management has confirmed that Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has invaded their premises to sniff around on allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds.
Mahupela stated: “DCEC have come to us and said they want to see all the documents that they need like the contractors we engaged for various projects and we provided to them such information because we are quite confident that there is nothing untoward in the organization.”
He said the DCEC wanted information but they were not sure what they are particularly investigating. “We don’t think we are clean, but we know we are.”
Initially, the Selibe Phikwe law maker had highlighted that there were serious allegations of corruption at BCL. “I suspect imprudent management of finances and corruption at grand scale at BCL; this imprudent management of money and corruption may be found in BCL outsourcing of services and engagement of consultants and the BCL purported strategy to diversify its portfolio.”
Keorapetse also added that Pula Steel project may be a big fraud. He added that it’s like opening a pork restaurant in Mecca or Moria. “How is it going to survive when big steel plants and corporations which produce high quality and quantity of billets have closed shop due to collapse of steel prices? Who are they going to sell to? It’s a big scam I suspect and probing questions have to be asked.”
A fraction of 4 300 employees to be retrenched
The organization management pointed out that they are re-organising the company, and in the process there will be a new resource requirement. In the process of refining and reconfiguring they “anticipate redundancy”.
Once structures have been approved, they will have the details of how many people will be required and how many will be laid off consequently.
Keorapetse had wanted government to bail out the mining company to “save BCL and jobs and families that depend on it”. “We can’t afford job losses because unemployment is very high in Phikwe,” he had stated then.
Workers blamed for fatalities at BCL
According to Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU)11 workers died at the BCL Mine between 2011 and 2015 – making it the most dangerous mine in Botswana.
Mahupela also conceded to this publication that “underground mining is one of the most hazardous and dangerous jobs anywhere in the world.”
He continued: “we have had our fatalities and most of our fatalities had to do with workers not following laid down procedures. There are those areas which you are not supposed to go into because if you go into them you will get killed.”
In our mines if you follow procedures, he said, chances of getting injured are very low. “All these procedures, all these laws and rules are made so that you don’t get injured. But if for any reason you don’t do what you are supposed to do, your chances of getting injured will rise. But we can’t really blame them because sometimes they are human and they forget.”
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.