It was with a deep sense of shock and absolute disappointment that the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Bobonong, Selebi Phikwe and Mmadinare (BOSEMA) Region learnt about yet another fatal accident that claimed the lives of three young citizens deep in the bowels of the BCL mine shafts two weeks to date.
Our heartfelt condolences go to the families of the young men whose lives have been cut short by their untimely deaths. May the young men’s souls rest in everlasting peace.
We, however, would like to highlight that, if we are as a nation to stem this tide of untimely deaths, we need to understand that the spate of fatal and even non-fatal accidents that has come to define the BCL mines over the past nine months point to a number of issues which, if not attended to with the necessary swiftness and diligence, will render the mine a veritable source of sorrow rather than substance for way too many of our fellow citizens.
Firstly, much as we appreciate that to err is human, and therefore errors may be committed which may in turn lead to regrettable loss of lives, for the BCL to record an average of one fatality every month as it has done over the past nine months borders on criminal negligence.
This loss of lives is totally unacceptable. That to date we have not heard of any heads having rolled following investigations carried after every fatal accident is a damning indictment of both the BCL management and the Department of Mines. This continues even though the frequency of deaths occasioned by these so-called accidents has long passed chilling levels.
The BCL management must be taken to task, and the Department of Mines must be held accountable. By failing to take the necessary decisive steps to curtail this spate of fatalities, the duo, whether consciously or inadvertently, have aided and abetted the creation of an environment of impunity where none is held liable for the continued decimation of our population.
Given that the responsibility for cultivating, inculcating and instilling a culture of respect for the demands of occupational health and safety lies with the leadership of the mine in consonance with the Department of Mines, the leadership has to carry the bulk of the blame for this fatal deterioration of safety standards and practices. We therefore expect, at the bare minimum, the prosecution of those responsible for this sad state of affairs, without fear or favour.
It is also at times like these that the failure of our legislators to create a safe environment for workers is brought into sharp focus. In particular, the BDP government which has been in power for fifty long years now, has failed to enact an Occupational Health and Safety Act. How do we create an environment where all concerned know that lapses of this nature will never go unpunished when the relevant legal framework has yet to be constructed? Much as we are alive to the fact that action may be taken against those found culpable through the usage of common law, the enactment of this Act is long overdue, and we have to enjoin our legislators to proceed with haste in ensuring that it comes into being, and into force and effect without any further delay.
When all is said and done, our position as the BCP is that most, if not all, of these deaths were avoidable – what has led to these unnecessary and heart-wrenching losses of lives is the culture of impunity that has been let to take root by the laisser-faire and lax attitude of the BCL management and the Department of Mines. We call upon the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, under whose portfolio these operations fall, to take the necessary decisive action to bring this to a long overdue end, failing which the next head to roll must be his.
Cde Roller Lesedi
Secretary – BCP BOSEMA Region