After vowing to reinstate Montwedi Mphathi back to his position as the Managing Director of Botash (Pty) Ltd, it seems Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Sadique Kebonang has lost the battle against Botash Chairman Ian Forbes who sanctioned the expulsion of Mphathi in October.
Botash Board of Directors, led by Forbes, expelled Mphathi after accusing him of insubordination among other charges. His expulsion sent shockwaves at government enclave as Minister Kebonang felt the Board undermined his authority by not engaging him prior to determining Mphathi’s fate with the soda ash mining company. Kebonang’s argument was that, as the custodian of Botswana government’s 50% share in the company, he was entitled to making some input in the decision to fire Mphathi. The minister also felt Mphathi was not given fair treatment in that he was dismissed without being accorded a disciplinary hearing.
Forbes on the other hand felt there was no need to involve the minister as the government of Botswana has representatives who sit in the Botash Board. He was of the view it was enough to only inform the minister, out of courtesy, about the resolutions already taken by the board. Following heated exchanges between Forbes and Kebonang, the minister approached cabinet where a decision was taken to reinstate Mphathi. That was never to be, as Forbes and his Board stood their ground and refused to bend to the demands of cabinet.
On the day Mphathi was supposed to have returned to work, 1st December, Forbes flew into the country from his base in Johannesburg. On arrival in Gaborone, Forbes is said to have convened a board meeting where asked if there was anyone in the board who was against the collective decision that was taken to expel Mphathi. It is alleged that all board members, including those representing Botswana government, reaffirmed their support for the decision to expel Mphathi. As the board meeting was taking place, Kebonang had allegedly asked Mphathi to abandon his trip to Sowa Town as he was anticipating he might need some information from him in the meeting that was to follow between him and Forbes. The meeting between Forbes and Kebonang brought closure to the whole fracas as, apparently, Forbes came with only one agenda item, not to discuss but to tell the minister. The Board of Directors had decided to stand by their decision to part ways with Mphathi.
Mphathi was then left confused, not knowing whether he was still an employee as per the directive of cabinet or whether he was unemployed as per the orders of the board. The Botswana Gazette can confirm that despite being promised by the minister that he will get his job back, Mphathi is still in Gaborone waiting to hear from Kebonang.
In a brief interview on Monday, Mphathi confirmed that he was still in Gaborone trying to establish what the minister has decided. After his meeting with Forbes on 1st December, Kebonang had told this publication that ‘‘some progress has been made’’ but said he cannot make it public before he informs cabinet.