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BCL MD refuses to step down amid financial crisis

BCL Managing Director, Daniel Mahupela

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.”

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