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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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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

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.

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”


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.”


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.


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)


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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