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MP wants commission of inquiry at BCL

The Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse intends to table a motion during the next session of Parliament calling for a commission of inquiry at the BCL mine.

The legislator met with employees of BCL in Selibe Phikwe this week to get their views on the developments at the copper-nickel mine. The employees raised a number of complaints including delayed salaries, unfair dismissals and withdrawal of benefits without proper communication by the mine management.

The employees urged their MP to table the motion to avoid any possible job losses that may arise if the situation is not arrested at the copper-nickel mine.

“I agreed to move a motion on urgency to call for a commission of inquiry into BCL cash flow problems and other incidental problems, those responsible for the mess must be fired. I promised to ask a lot of questions to get to the bottom of the matter,” said Keorapetse when quizzed by this reporter.  

Keorapetse also intends to ask if the DCEC has investigated or is investigating corruption at BCL.

While the MP suspects systematic dismissals aimed at reducing the number of employees and lowering the wage bill, BCL has reported cash flow problems recently and this has affected some of its operations. Employees indicated that their salaries are delayed as a result.

BCL employees complained at the meeting that their loans to SACOS, micro lenders, monthly instalments are deducted from salaries but the money does not reach these financial institutions leaving them with arrears and bad debt record.

Keorapetse said some allowances like that which covers electricity have not been paid and those who are accommodated by the mine haven’t been bought electricity since December.

He said employees complain that the Chief Executive officer, Mr Mahupela does not do site visits and does not address them even in the midst of crisis. They in fact say that he has never addressed them and they only see him in the newspapers.

Employees also reported that the smelter is having problems and has had breakdowns since shutdown. They raised concerns that the rate of what they perceive as unfair dismissals has increased probably because the mine wants to reduce the number of workers by all means possible.

“One of our colleagues was dismissed for forgetting his work ID at work and after appeal he has been suspended for three months,” said one employee.

The BCL staff also complained to their MP about casual labourers or short term contracts at BCL. They said they can work for up to three or five years through several six months contracts stints and they wondered why they are not given long term contracts. They indicated that sometimes they get injured and they are ditched, “actually some have died and were not compensated because of the nature of their contracts.”

They also complained about high numbers of foreigners at BCL in some departments, mainly Zimbabweans.

Employees were concerned that the BCL seeks to diversify portfolio without first addressing its core business. They also decried the decline of safety standards at BCL and point to many injuries and deaths and say most people who died lacked experience to work and supervise risky areas and operations.

On a separate matter they want to know what Dr Akolang Tombale is doing about the petition they long handed him and further want an explanation as to why they never got the six percent inflationary salary adjustment.

“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,” said Keorapetse.

He was very critical of Pula Steel which he said it may be a big fraud; “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 the collapse of steel prices? Who are they going to sell to? It’s a big scam I suspect and probing questions must be asked.”

On workers complaints about dismissals he echoed their sentiments but cautioned them.

“I highly suspect workers are being unfairly dismissed to reduce their numbers. I have met at least two who have been dismissed and have heard of others. I cautioned workers not to play into the hands of employers because labour laws are inadequate in protecting them. In fact they protect employers more than workers. if they strike BCL may dismiss them en masse and say it is an illegal strike. I also told them to tread carefully because they may be fired over small issues and I encouraged them to be punctual and work hard,” Keorapetse further explained.

The Selibe Phikwe West MP said BCL executives and the Board should own up and take responsibility for this mess and rectify it before it is too late.

“We can’t afford job losses because unemployment is very high here in Phikwe,” he contended.

He concluded by saying Government should intervene through a bailout and a good strategy to save BCL and jobs and families that depend on it.

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Over 2 000 civil servants interdicted

6th December 2022

Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.

According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reaching WeekendPost shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.

In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.

This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publication’s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, “as you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,” she said.

She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.

Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.

Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.

Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.

“It is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,” he told WeekendPost, adding that “when a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolved”.

Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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African DFIs gear to combat climate change

25th November 2022

The impacts of climate change are increasing in frequency and intensity every year and this is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. African CEOs in the Global South are finally coming to the party on how to tackle the crisis.

Following the completion of COP27 in Egypt recently, CEOs of Africa DFIs converged in Botswana for the CEO Forum of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions. One of the key themes was on green financing and building partnerships for resource mobilization in financing SDGs in Africa

A report; “Weathering the storm; African Development Banks response to Covid-19” presented shocking findings during the seminar. Among them; African DFI’s have proven to be financially resilient, and they are fast shifting to a green transition and it’s financing.

COO, CEDA, James Moribame highlighted that; “Everyone needs food, shelter and all basic needs in general, but climate change is putting the achievement of this at bay. “It is expensive for businesses to do business, for instance; it is much challenging for the agricultural sector due to climate change, and the risks have gone up. If a famer plants crops, they should be ready for any potential natural disaster which will cost them their hard work.”

According to Moribame, Start-up businesses will forever require help if there is no change.

“There is no doubt that the Russia- Ukraine war disrupted supply chains. SMMEs have felt the most impact as some start-up businesses acquire their materials internationally, therefore as inflation peaks, this means the exchange rate rises which makes commodities expensive and challenging for SMMEs to progress. Basically, the cost of doing business has gone up. Governments are no longer able to support DFI’s.”

Moribame shared remedies to the situation, noting that; “What we need is leadership that will be able to address this. CEOs should ensure companies operate within a framework of responsible lending. They also ought to scout for opportunities that would be attractive to investors, this include investors who are willing to put money into green financing. Botswana is a prime spot for green financing due to the great opportunity that lies in solar projects. ”

Technology has been hailed as the economy of the future and thus needs to be embraced to drive operational efficiency both internally and externally.

Executive Director, bank of Industry Nigeria, Simon Aranou mentioned that for investors to pump money to climate financing in Africa, African states need to be in alignment with global standards.

“Do what meets world standards if you want money from international investors. Have a strong risk management system. Also be a good borrower, if you have a loan, honour the obligation of paying it back because this will ensure countries have a clean financial record which will then pave way for easier lending of money in the future. African states cannot just be demanding for mitigation from rich countries. Financing needs infrastructure to complement it, you cannot be seating on billions of dollars without the necessary support systems to make it work for you. Domestic resource mobilisation is key. Use public money to mobilise private money.” He said.

For his part, the Minster of Minister of Entrepreneurship, Karabo Gare enunciated that, over the past three years, governments across the world have had to readjust their priorities as the world dealt with the effects and impact of the COVID 19 pandemic both to human life and economic prosperity.

“The role of DFIs, during this tough period, which is to support governments through countercyclical measures, including funding of COVID-19 related development projects, has become more important than ever before. However, with the increasingly limited resources from governments, DFIs are now expected to mobilise resources to meet the fiscal gaps and continue to meet their developmental mandates across the various affected sectors of their economies.” Said Gare.

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