Selebi Phikwe before, with its large rich copper and nickel mineral deposits used to attract people, businesses and investors into the town but is no longer lively as it used to be. Formerly leading hub of copper mining in Southern Africa region, which saw the economy of town flourishing as job opportunities were vast due to the mine, ‘Zana as Phikwe is popularly called by its inhabitants now cuts the image of slow, sleepy town which left many wondering.
Apart from a lively giant retail supermarkets, banks and big renowned hotels in the town, the other business properties have closed and turned into birds’ homes, with the situation leaving the once admired mining town in the brink of collapse, Phikwe is now looking like a ghost town.
Phikwe used to be a hive of activity as job seekers across the country descended to the town and since closure of the mine, there is less movement of people and mood is somber in town.
The Patriot on Sunday interacted with some of Phikwe residents in the streets who shared their thoughts about life in Phikwe beyond mine which was considered a crucial source of economy.
Ogone Keabilwe who sells airtime and fast foods in the town mall said the live hoods has been affected since BCL mine was closed decrying low turnout from business due to a low activity.
‘‘I have been residing in this town for some many years until BCL mine was closed. The town used to be busy in terms of business activity and hype in all aspects you can think of. The whole town is hurting and people have migrated leaving the town mood quiet for so long,” she added.
Another resident Samuel Modikwe who is former security guard says although it seems like the mine would not be reopened, he fears more glooming disaster lying ahead for the ailing town.
He noted that he was left unemployed while the company he was working for decided to retrench some of its staff earlier in August 2019, with company citing financial constraints.
“The situation is getting tough here every day. I am failing to get a job in most of the security companies I approached as they decry of financial crisis as business have declined. The mine proved it was the economic backbone of this town and the town is collapsing, “Modikwe said.
The business community in Selebi Phikwe is feeling the heat of BCL mine closure especially small business enterprises such as lodges and manufacturing that supplied services to mine.
There is ominous sign of decline in business sector as majority of companies are closed along Bamangwato industrial site, with a number of large trucks packing under trees not being used.
Former BCL employee who is currently owning a Cleaning Detergents company in Phikwe, Maiteko Morapetsane revealed that the market in Selebi Phikwe is difficult to penetrate.
Assisted by Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) to grow his business, he indicated that he was forced to start up a business for survival after he was left jobless when the mine was closed.
‘‘I worked as Geologist at BCL mine. I am running a cleaning detergents manufacturing company and the business environment is tough. If the BCL mine was still operating I am adamant that my business could be doing well because there have been some similar companies before that supplied mine with cleaning detergents. Maybe they are closed now,” Morapetsane stressed.
Some of the retail buildings are also not occupied in the town’s main mall as it said that some of the businesses that operated within them have migrated to other places such as Francistown.
The local Small Medium Enterprises hotel industry is also bemoaning decline in business citing that there can go a long time without getting lucrative business until the council have events.
Selebi Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse has tried but in vain to convince government in parliament to reopen the BCL mine arguing its closure has impacted the economy of the town.
Last year, he brought the motion to parliament insisting that BCL mine should be reopened however, he was defeated by the majority from the Botswana Democratic (BDP) legislators.
The outspoken MP noted that the BCL mine still have adequate mineral resources that could support a reasonable mine life especially the Selebi mine shafts arguing that the decision by government to close mine 2015 citing decline in copper prices is no longer reasonable today.
Moreover, former minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale last year revealed that government spent P 956 million on BCL liquidation that failed.
The closure of mine in 2016 left pains of sorrow amongst 5 000 people who were left jobless.