The battle for the control of Botswana Ash Pty (LTD) is set to intensify this week as government enters the fray over the firing of its Managing Director Montwedi Mphathi. Highly placed sources at the government enclave have revealed that there is ‘a lot of anger’ in Government leadership about the summary dismissal of Mphathi by the BOTASH board as they felt it was insult to Government as the shareholder. According to well-placed sources, Cabinet, including President Ian Khama, felt the board should have taken them into its confidence before firing Mphathi. There is a strong feeling that cabinet might reverse the decision of the board and reinstate him which could see some board members, especially those appointed by Government being replaced. Some of the board members appointed by government include former Francistown Mayor Iqbal Ebrahim, former Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) President Negroes Kgosietsile, Neo Mokgwathi, Dr Nkisang Moeti, Garekwe Mojaphoko and Karabo Radebe. Last week Kebonang publicly expressed shock at the firing of Mphathi as he was not informed about the sacking as the minister responsible. “You do not treat someone like him like that. He has done so much for the mining industry in this country. There is no one who knows more about mining in Botswana than him. That is why a proper explanation is needed,” said a senior government official.
Botswana Government holds 50% shareholding in the soda ash mine while Chlor Alkali Holdings (CAH) group holds the remaining shares as well as being the managing company. Mphathi, who left BCL in 2006 under controversial circumstances, has been embroiled in controversy in recent weeks due to the firing of six managers in less than six months and employment of his former ally Keenlord Dube as Head of Mine Engineering. Information gathered by this publication has revealed that Mphathi, who joined the soda ash mining company six years ago, clashed with the board led by Ian Forbes over some of the dealings which were done without his knowledge. One of the issues was the continued disappearance of tonnes of soda ash from stock at the offices in South Africa and Malawi. This led to Mphathi firing some of the senior managers. “Some of the soda ash which is transported to South Africa has its branding removed and counted as part of the stock from Botswana. Mphathi has raised concerns about the issue to the board of directors,” revealed a source at BOTASH. The straw that killed the camel’s back was when 8000 tonnes of soda ash worth over P20 million disappeared from stock in South Africa recently. Mphathi cracked the whip by firing the finance manager which put him at loggerheads with the board of directors.