This motion seeks to persuade government to review its decision to permit Khoemacau Mining Company (PTY) LTD to employ expatriate staff in positions listed in the Statutory Instrument No. 106 of 2019 Immigration Act (CAP. 25.02) Immigration (Exemption) (Amendment) (No.1) Order, 2019, Published on the 4th September, 2019). According to the Botswana Chamber of Mines website, Khoemacau Copper Mining (Pty) Ltd (“Khoemacau”), previously known as Hana Ghanzi Copper (Pty) Ltd, is a subsidiary of Cupric Canyon Capital Plc (“Cupric”), has been exploring and developing the Ghantsi-Chobe Copper Silver Project (Khoemacau Project”), located in the Kalahari copper belt within the Ghantsi and Ngamiland Districts. Khoemacau mining and explorartion licenses encompass a vast area of 4,000 square kilometers in the Kalahari Copper Belt, which increased after it acquired Boseto Mine in 2015. It has been accorded a 20 year Mining License with 185 million tonnes of copper resources ready for mining.
Khoemacau mine, which was officially opened by HE MEK Masisi, has embarked on an ambitious construction of 3.6 million tonnes per annum starter project at an estimated US$397 million for a two year construction timeline. According to local media sources (Botswana Guardian et al), First Copper Concentrate production may be received sometimes in 2021, with annual production averaging 62000 tonnes copper and 1.9 million ounces of silver.
The good news about this Project is that it is said to be worth a whopping P4 billion, is expected to create an average of 1663 jobs per annum and is estimated to likely bring P10 billion, including about P700 million tax, into the economy within its operational life of between 2021-2042. These figures presupposes a better life for Batswana in that many will get jobs and provide for themselves and their families. It is more good news for those who lost their jobs at mines such as BCL, Tati Nickel, Lerala and Ghagoo to name but a few that closed.
This is what the President has told Parliament on Monday in his address to the nation at paragraph 230, “Khoemacau Copper Mining, in the North West has started the construction of the boxcuts at Zone 5 mining concession with anticipation to start concentrate exportation during the first quarter of 2021. Three boxcuts whose ground breaking ceremony was performed in June 2019 are being constructed. The Construction of the haul road from Zone 5 to the Bosetu plant in Toteng has commenced and will be used to transport ore from the mine to the plant. The mine currently employs Eight Hundred and Fourteen (814) people of which Seven Hundred and Eighty One (781) or 95.9 percent are citizens.” I challenge the President and his government to provide details of the aforementioned 781 positions held by citizens. There is no doubt that many of our people are eating crumbs whilst foreigners are eating the sumptuous meal. They are mostly employed as unskilled and semi-skilled whilst foreigners are reserved skilled jobs through the Statutory Instrument.
Poverty, Unemployment, Underemployment, Wealth and Income Inequalities and Disempowerment
Botswana’s economy continues to be characterized by widespread abject poverty, unemployment, including of graduates and underemployment at unprecedented scales. We are confronted by wealth and income inequalities which are exacerbated by unemployment and slave wages and the contemptuous refusal by the regime to introduce a decent living wage. Economic disempowerment is one of the unpleasant features of our economy whereby the means of production such as capital and land are in the hands of foreigners, naturalized or non-indigenous citizens. Our people have become spectators in their country, they subsists at the margins whilst aliens, including naturalized citizens, own big businesses, malls, resorts/hotels, mines, etcetera. Our people are confronted by inadequate and in many cases lack of access to services and opportunities.
The government refuses to give figures of jobs shed by the closed mines such as BCL, Tati Nickel, Mowana, Ghagoo, Lerala etc and other companies which have collapsed. We don’t have as a country a proper data base of unemployed skilled Labour from these mines and other companies. Our view from this side of the aisle is that we have plenty of skilled needed by mines and other businesses that operate in Botswana.
Botswana has been for a very long time friendly and very welcoming to foreigners. Studies done by independent consultants such as Tsa-Badiri have made very disappointing findings about how foreigners were well paid more than citizens doing same jobs. Foreigners have had plum jobs at managerial and or executive levels for decades; in some industries such as banking, it is still hard to find a Motswana CEO or General Manager with full rights and responsibilities, they are all scarecrows kind of executives who are compelled to forward key decision making roles such as approvals of big loans to South Africa and elsewhere. This applies to some mining companies, e.g. DeBeers and Debswana continue to engage foreign companies for their outsourced services and purchase of goods. These are the sad realities of our economy, an economy controlled by either aliens or naturalized non-black Batswana or “Batswana ba sekei” in HE the President’s words. The manner in which Monty Mphathi was elbowed out of Botash is instructive of the larger conspiracy of foreigners against Batswana in the mining industry. Unfortunately, some of our own black indigenous Batswana have been corrupted by big foreign entities to preserve the status quo. This state of affairs must be condescendingly rejected by this house and the country be taken back to its rightful owners. Batswana’s dignity through authentic empowerment must be our priority as the 12th Parliament. Let us start with the review of the Statutory Notice No 106 of 2019.
Why we don’t need many foreigners at Khoemacau
We as the UDC contend that there’s no need to have many aliens at Khoemacau because there are many Batswana who are skilled in the fields articulated in the Instrument 106 of 2019. The subsidiary legislation in question even includes positions in engineering and artisanry as reserved for foreigners. This can’t be allowed in a country that has been involved in mining for nearly half a century. Both the BCL and the Khoemacau are base metal industries thus they have a lot in common in respect of Mining methods and ore processing methods. BCL was extracting ores through a number of mining methods, from open pit in the not so distant past to conventional open stopes, to room and pillar, to creeping cone sub level open stopes, to fully mechanised sublevel open stopes.
The Khoemacau mining methods are similar to the ones that was used at BCL’s Selebi North and part of Selebi. ie.Mechanised and non entry Sublevel open stope mining methods. The people that were previously employed to extract ore through these methods are availbake in the local job market thus there is no need to hire expatriates to fill the positions listed in the delegates legislation by Former Minister Magang Ngaka Ngaka. His decision was ill advised, hastily and unreasonable. If we were unreasonable, we would insist that this Statutory Instrument be rescinded but because we are aware that there is FDI involved and that the project is internationally funded, we are reasonable enough to ask the Minister to review this decision.
We acknowlede that khoemacau is still at a project stage where preliminary works of shaft sinking and access ramps will soon commense if they haven’t started. One thing to note is that for a period of between 2007 and late 2012 BCL undertood a project called Selebi North Shaft Deepening Project. The project team was mostly Batswana with Mining related qualifications and a wealth of experience in deepening and shaft infrastructure development in underground operations. These people are availabke in the local job market and are unemployed in large numbers especially after the closures of BCL, Tati Nickel, Mowana, Ghagoo, DML And Lerala Mines inter alia. They have been trained from international and local universities through the tax payers’ money. Some of the jobs that have been exempted include artisans and leading hand, these are shopfloor roles that are readily available. Leading hand roles range from unskilled to semi skilled personnel. Are we saying we dont have unskilled people in our country?
When responding to my proposal, The minister should perhaps start by explaining how many mining engineers and mining related graduates Botswana government and companies have funded to be educated abroad in the US, UK, Canada etc since 1976 when the first grous were dispatched. Every Botswana produces many of the skills for Mining at UB, BIUST and some technical colleges. We have Batswana holding certificates, diplomas, undergraduate and post-graduate degrees-MSc and PhDs in mining related disciplines. Why do we have so much self-doubt on our people to the point where the government legislates on allowing a mining company to hire foreign labour in about 90 positions.
I urge this Honorable House to be unequivocally bold and considerate of its citizens and support efforts to empower them through productive and remunerative employment at Khoemacau mine. I encourage you, Honorable Members, to reject attempts to sell a story that Batswana cannot be placed for employment in over 90 positions espoused in the Instrument in question for reasons that they are incapable or that they don’t have such skills. I have demonstrated that these skills are available and that they can obtained locally. We in the UDC, are of the view that the Minister has abused his powers of delegated legislation by issuing the aforesaid Statutory Instrument. The timing of the legislation also raises suspicions because it was published after the dissolution of the 11th Parliament.
*Keorapetse is MP for Selebi Phikwe West