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NICKEL AND DIE

STUART WHITE
The world in Black-n-White


There’s no doubt that the biggest HR/PR story in Botswana this month has to be the closure of the BCL copper/nickel mine in Selebi-Phikwe, along with Tati Nickel. 

The High Court has appointed a liquidator to oversee the disposal of assets and work out exit packages for employees leaving the entire process in a state of flux.  The only certainty is that the ailing mine appears due for permanent shutdown, with the loss of thousands of jobs.

The future for this mining town is truly too disastrous to contemplate.

The loss of jobs and income for mine employees will be bad enough; not only does the mine employ staff, it also houses them and residents have been given formal notice to vacate their grace and favour accommodation by the end of month; further, in an effort to avoid more financial loss, water supplies have been discontinued from staff housing and electricity disconnections are due to follow; the mine has also undertaken to subsidise the educational needs of children of mine families in private schools in the town, offered at a flat rate of P300 per child per term – this benefit will also be immediately withdrawn; the mine has additionally taken care of their medical needs with a mine clinic staffed by in-house doctors and nurses – that too will have to close; and all those mine workers who only have one trade, one saleable skill, will have nowhere to go in the area to look for alternative employment. 

What use is a miner with no mine?

But it doesn’t stop there.  Selebi-Phikwe is a town built to support its major industry – the copper and nickel mines.  Retailers survive with business from mine staff and their families.  How will they stay in business when their customer base disappears and residents are counting every thebe?  The same goes for petrol stations and other service providers, not to mention those businesses serving the mine directly; butcheries, greengrocers and farmers supplying food to the canteen, liquor wholesalers relying on business from the mine club; repair shops providing outsourced vehicle and building maintenance….this list goes on and on. 

Almost every business in Selebi-Phikwe will somehow be connected to and reliant on, business from the greater mine operations and all of them will feel the pinch badly – many for sure will go under.  Even those that manage to stay afloat may have to lay off part of their own workforce. Bet your bottom copper coin, a great deal of people won’t be sleeping too well at the moment, contemplating a scary and uncertain future.

A number of factors have contributed to this sad state of affairs; indeed threats of closure have hung over this unprofitable operation for years but this is now no longer a future threat, it is a clear and present danger and a stark reality.  BCL is closing, jobs, housing and other perquisites will be withdrawn and many families face severe hardship.

The problem is not new, merely new to Botswana.  One of the most famous examples occurred in a town called Jarrow in the north-east of England in the 1930s, when their only source of work and income, a shipyard, was forced to close, making most of the local men redundant.  This was long before today’s generous British social services system when no job meant no money and families forced into abject poverty.

There was a small unemployment  benefit which lasted for 26 weeks, after which, people were given transitional payments, subject to the  Household Means Test introduced in 1931, whereby the wages of all family members, and any household assets, were taken into account when deciding whether or not relief should be paid. This meant that in some cases redundant men were dependant on their daughters or wives, a situation that did not sit well in an era when the head of the household, the man, was expected to be the primary breadwinner and not to do so was looked on as emasculating and embarrassing.


In desperation, 300 men of Jarrow marched on the government in London, demanding work and a means of earning an honest living:

“In October 1936, a group 200 men from the north-eastern town of Jarrow marched 300 miles to London. They wanted Parliament, and the people in the south, to understand that they were orderly, responsible citizens, but were living in a region where there were many difficulties, and where there was 70 per cent unemployment – leading one of the marchers to describe his home town in those days as '…a filthy, dirty, falling down, consumptive area.'


The men were demanding that a steel works be built to bring back jobs to their town, as Palmer's shipyard in Jarrow had been closed down in the previous year. The yard had been Jarrow's major source of employment, and the closure compounded the problems of poverty, overcrowding, poor housing and high mortality rates that already beset the town.

Ellen Wilkinson, the local MP, later wrote that Jarrow at that time was: '… utterly stagnant. There was no work. No one had a job except a few railwaymen, officials, the workers in the co-operative stores, and a few workmen who went out of the town… the plain fact [is] that if people have to live and bear and bring up their children in bad houses on too little food, their resistance to disease is lowered and they die before they should.' (The Town that was Murdered, 1939)”


The only hope for the whole of  Selebi-Philwe right now  is that some other local or external investors might be found to salvage what is left before the workforce disperses and the town dies a death.   For BCL workers and for workers in every other service and supply industry, their plight is  dire and their future too worrying to contemplate.  Coming only weeks after the rest of the country was ostentatiously celebrating its 50th year of independence, peace and prosperity, its to be wondered what Phikwians made of it all. 

The flame of the Roving Torch should have been extinguished in shame if indeed its organisers were crass enough to carry it into the town – for sure, they had little to celebrate there.  So much for a copper-bottomed future.
STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at  HYPERLINK "http://www.hrmc.co.bw" www.hrmc.co.bw

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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