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The manner in which BCL was closed was unethical, cruel and possibly criminal?

Bernard Busani


A united and proud nation; a just and compassionate nation; a productive and innovative nation, an educated and informed nation; a nation with a clear sense of consciousness; a nation that believes in justice and fairness for all, SUCH A NATION will never accept nor condone the manner in which BCL and Tati Nickel were recently closed down by its sole shareholder the government of Botswana.


If we believe in the ideals encapsulated in our national vision and those ideals we parade to the international community, we must all stand up and condemn the manner in which these mines were closed and demand that they be reopened without delay.


As the dust around this closure begins to settle, it is becoming increasingly clear that our government is devoid of true leadership credentials, it is devoid of forethought and a true sense of justice.  The government has behaved in extreme crudeness and cruelty. The closure of BCL and Tati nickel was not only very reckless, callous but it also bordered on criminality as some have already suggested without explaining.  It has exposed the tearing weakness endemic in our government leadership.


In this submission however, I am not going to question the economic merit or demerit of closing these mines; this has been discussed repeatedly before and since the closure. Any fair-minded technocrat or business guru would agree that the closure was premature and unnecessary looking at the history of BCL; how for so many years it has been kept alive by our government for well known strategic reasons; chief amongst them being the role it played in the economy not only of Selebe Phikwe and surrounding villages but also of the entire economy through the use commodities  from Morupule Coal Mine, Power Corporation, Water Utilities Corporation and many other support industries, not to mention the   support rendered to the many relatives of BCL employees scattered throughout the country whose livelihoods were anchored on BCL and Tati nickel employees.  


BCL was in a much better shape than some of the yesteryears when it was literally kept alive by our hard earned taxes; after all these mines belong to us all. The closure was an unimaginable, uncalculated economic blunder that has set the country back many decades and driven many of our people into abject poverty and fatal desperation.


BCL through its Polaris II program was on the right track although in my view too ambitious in light of the current depressed global commodity prices owing to the cyclical nature of the world economy. But I must add, Polaris II represented the kind of thinking that is required to take this country to higher levels of prosperity.


At the time of closure commodity prices where showing strong signs of recovery; BCL was set recover, bounce back stronger and exceed previous performance through its expanded mining portfolio now irreversibly squandered by this thoughtless closure.


My beef today is that even if it had become timely and exceedingly imperative to close BCL and Tati Nickel (which scenario I cannot buy) there are well known internationally recognised procedures to follow when closing such an entity especially the one that has such a wide reach and influence in the our economy as well as those countries that use our copper and nickel.


The first thing that must have been considered is all the people that would be affected directly and indirectly by this closure. The government should not have closed the mine until all due social processes and consultations had taken place and closed professionally. Maybe if they had done that they would have learnt in the process that it was more prudent to keep the mines running perhaps at reduced rate than closing them.


The employees


These are the people who should have been consulted first through the mine worker’s union on possible closure and consequences. The consultations would have included retrenchment packages for each employee which package would consider the period each employee had been working and years left before normal retirement. 


The employees would have been afforded social as well as financial counseling to prepare them for the final exit from the mine. It is clear that some employees would be having school going children, some would have banking loan commitments, others would be on HIV/Aids treatment supported by the mine, yet others would be involved in voluntary social schemes that would require closure. This communication would normally take enough time to address all the issues surrounding the employee’s welfare including exit medical assessments and proposed remedial actions.


The business partners


They will be many business partners including contractors,  varied service providers including schools, hospitals, clinics etc who will need to be consulted and given time to consider other alternatives including how to deal with their own employees and their own service providers; it is an elaborate chain reaction that cannot be taken lightly.


You cannot just fly in, in the afternoon and tell people that tomorrow there is no more work for you here, go home we have appointed a liquidator who will call you soon to tell you about your terminal benefits. This is how the BCL and Tati Nickel mines were shutdown. How deplorable!


Why this could be considered criminal honourable legal minds


I understand some people; actually up to eight people so far have committed suicide as they could no longer face the future. They felt they have been condemned to death by government and might as well take their own lives to escape the misery that awaits them and their families. 


What happened to those people who where on ARV supplied by the mine, whose supply stopped on that fateful Friday when they were told the mine and its services were shut? How many people are going to die as a result of missing their daily dose of life saving ARV drugs?


I cannot imagine the emotional trauma that descended on all those employees when they received the message that Friday from a battalion of ministers and some senior government officials sent to deliver the bad news to the miners about their sad fate; a message that shuttered all their dreams and aspirations; a message that sent shivering shock waves to the rest of the country and the world especially those that benefited from our copper and nickel.


The import of this message is if people committed suicide and some died orb die as a result of the trauma that visited them on that fateful Friday who should be held accountable to their death? I think that is where the criminal nature of this closure comes in. This ought to be explored deeper by those in the know.


The legal minds, Ditshwanelo and BONELA


These people must now stand up and be seen for who they are and what they stand for in our country. I am talking about our civil and criminal lawyers, Ditshwanelo (the voice of the voiceless in our society) and BONELA among others They must set up a fund to fight this injustice and legally get our government to account and pay for all consequential damages resulting from this closure.


They must demand justice for all these employees. The government is duty bound to pay all the employees appropriate terminal benefits, including allowing all the employees to continue indefinitely to occupy houses they occupied as employees until suitable employment is found for them.   Government must be made to pay the price for the reckless and callous decision to shut the mines in the manner it did.


BONELA waged a spirited war against government for the issuance of ARVs to foreign inmates. For the record I was against this fight, but I admired their fortitude and bravery. I would like to see BONELA put on its boxing gloves and start waging legal and social war against our government for callously closing BCL and Tati mines.


This is a war that must be led by the likes of BONELA, Ditshwanelo and the law society; supported by all Batswana through individual financial donation into some trust fund opened for these miners and their families. There is need for moral and social support through public engagement to sensitise the nation on why the mines should never have been closed in the first place and that closing them in manner it did was cruel, careless and reversing that decision is the only reasonable thing to do.


The public must be made to understand why government must be made to account fully on this.  While the politicians are fighting government to reopen the mine through parliament, a parallel social movement must be mobilised to support the miners and their families.


Government must be forced to pay appropriate compensation to these people, our people. A government of the people by the people will listen to its people. Let us test the government’s willingness to listen to its people before 2019 so that in 2019 we can vote appropriately.


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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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