All is not well at the cash strapped BCL Mine as employees feel that they have been left in the lurch as management has not addressed them regarding the financial crisis the company is in. At a meeting with MP for Selebi-Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse, the employees complained that they don’t know pay days because payments are delayed every month. At the top of their complaints is failure by the company’s Managing Director Dan Mahupela to address them on the current situation. They complain that they don’t know Mahupela as he has never addressed them and doesn’t do site visits. They only see him in the media, some claim.
The employees find themselves faced with a dire financial situation as their loans to banks, SACOS, micro lenders monthly installments are deducted from salaries but the money doesn’t reach these financial institutions leaving them with arrears and bad debt record. Financial trouble for the employees worsened in December 2015, when BCL management took a decision not to pass money deducted for staff loans to creditors. The money was instead used to pay an installment of the P25m that the subsidiary Tati Nickel has accessed from Barclays Bank. The loan has been guaranteed by BCL. “Some allowances like electricity haven’t been paid and those who are accommodated by the mine haven’t been bought electricity since December,” complained the employees.
Another worry for the workers is that the mine is systematically retrenching through unfair dismissals which is currently happening as recently one employee was fired after he forgot is identification card (ID) at home. BCL has recorded a high number of mine causalities in the country - standing at 11 - and workers have decried the declining safety standards. They say that people who died lacked experience to work and supervise risky areas and operations. They are demanding a commission of inquiry into the BCL and want government to intervene urgently. Keorapetse said that he suspects 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 BCL purported strategy to diversify its portfolio,” said Keorapetse. Another concern for Keorapetse is Pula Steel Manufacturers - a subsidiary of BCL - which he doubts it will bring desired results. He likened it to a business person who opens a pork restaurant in Mecca, an Islamic city or Moria, Zion Christian Church (ZCC) headquarters expecting profit. “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?” he asked rhetorically.
Keorapetse said that he is going to table an urgent motion in the next sitting of parliament to call for a commission of inquiry into BCL cash flow problems and other incidental problems and that those responsible must be fired. On the dismal of workers of workers, Keorapetse concurs with employees that they are fired to reduce their numbers and said that he has cautioned them not to play into the hands of the employer like embarking on a strike. He called on the BCL management to own up and take responsibility on the financial mess and rectify before it is too late. Efforts to get comment from Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) President Jack Tlhagale were not successful as his phone rang unanswered.