- “It is a waste of government money.”
- “The mine is risky”
- BMWU dismisses Khama’s pronouncements
SELIBE-PHIKWE: Due to the magnitude of safety issues and lack of funds needed to refurbish it, outgoing President Ian Khama says the closed Selibe Phikwe BCL mine will never be opened and ex-miners should find other means of making a living.
Khama said this last Friday when bidding Selibe-Phikwe residents farewell in his ongoing tour before leaving office in April. It was the first time Khama visited the town and addressing the mine’s ex workers; this is despite several appeals by the Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU). Khama however said ex-workers and Batswana affected by the sudden closure of the mine should understand that he is also saddened by the effect of the decision.
However, arguing that government money went down the drain trying to save the mine, Khama said in 2015 the mine was bailed out by P2.8 billion with an expectation that it will make profit but fortunately it continued to make losses. “The government again bailed out the mine with P2.5 billion and P2.6 billion in the following years respectively but still there was no change. So, you want to tell me that this government funds are not wasted?” he asked.
BMWU Secretary General Mbiganyi Ramokate who says he is not surprised by Khama’s views, noted what he said are contradictory statements by Khama and the liquidator regarding the mine. Ramokate said while the liquidator indicates that copper prices have fallen, Khama says they have gone up. “The Liquidator has clearly stated in the report that the mine still has a future contrary to what Khama was saying. So Khama is ignoring what the liquidator indicated in the report,” Ramokate said.
He also rejected Khama’s argument concerning safety at the mine, saying the issue precedes the closure and was thus not linked to factors central to the closure. “It is surprising for Khama to be raising the issue of safety now while we have long talked about without appropriate steps being taken,” he argued.