BOTASH Managing Director Montwedi Mphathi has left the company under controversial circumstances. In a memo to the staff, Board chairman of BOTASH Ian Forbes said Mphathi has left the soda ash mining company to pursue other business interest and that Kangangwani Phatshwane will act as Managing Director. Though the memo didn’t indicate where he was going, highly placed sources within the mining industry have revealed that Mphathi will be joining Debswana in a senior capacity. One of the country’s very thorough and meticulous miners, Mphathi is expected to join the diamond mining company in January next year. This is not the first time that Mphathi has been linked with Debswana as in 2008 it was alleged that there was board resolution that he should be appointed deputy Managing Director – Operations.
Behind the resignation
Highly placed sources at BOTASH have revealed that the resignation of Mphathi is covered by a dark cloud as his relationship with the board and some senior managers had broken irreparably. It is said they felt he did not consult and was taking some decisions alone. At the centre of the storm are the allegations that corruption is rampant at BOTASH with tenders given to certain companies with connections to some senior managers. “About P8m has gone missing from Botash coffers. The only employee who was competent enough to trace these monies as he is responsible for the financial management computerised system was fired,” revealed the source. On the other hand 8,000 tonnes of soda ash – valued at P20 million – is alleged to have disappeared from the mine’s stock.
Employment of Dube
Keenlord Dube used to be Mphathi’s right hand man at BCL mine when he was the General Manager. Mphathi is said to have employed Dube recently to head the engineering department, something that irked the board as they felt that a local must have been appointed. In less than five months, five managers are said to have been fired at BOTASH.
Who is Mphathi?
He is the first Motswana to be appointed General Manager of BCL, having joined the mine on secondment from the department of Mines where he was an Inspector from 1982. He officially joined the mine in 1987 and worked his way up – from spanner man, shift boss, superintendent and ultimately General Manager. When he took over as GM in 2003, BCL was in deep financial crisis depending on government grants but he managed to turn it around and paid back P400 m emergency fund borrowed from government in 2000/2001. His administration was always criticised by politicians and trade unionists as they felt that he was heavy handed and difficult to deal with. At one point he dismissed employees who publicly stood for political office as they defied his instruction that workers should not be politically active. One of the men, Kavis Kario, later became Selebi-Phikwe West Member of Parliament. Mphathi’s reign at BCL was mired in controversy. He was accused of paying himself a hefty salary of about P150 000 per month. In 2010 some members of management team are said to have written to the office of the President, requesting that Mphathi be investigated for some corrupt practices. When the new board was appointed led by Dr Akolang Tombale, they engaged KPMG to do a forensic audit at the tune of P8 million. He shocked many within the industry when he joined a relatively small mine of BOTASH which he managed to turn it around. Contacted for comment, Mphathi declined to comment even on his next move choosing to say – “No comment.” A questionnaire sent to Debswana had not been answered at the time of going to press.