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  • Political interference pushed out BCL liquidator
  • Gov’t wanted BCL to open before elections for political mileage
  • Molale wants liquidator out
  • Gov’t starved liquidator of funds to get its way
  • Over a billion spent on liquidation so far

GAZETTE REPORTERS

Interference by powerful political figures in government aimed at appeasing the electorate has frustrated BCL Liquidator Nigel Dixon-Warren so much that he has taken a decision to ‘return BCL Mines and Smelter’ to government ownership, the liquidator admitted to this publication this week.

It has emerged that spear-headed by veteran public servant, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) active politician and Minister for Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale, government used its financial might to achieve political ends in an election year. Information gathered by the Botswana Gazette reveals that government’s sole objective is to have BCL Mines re-opened before the general elections so as to appease the electorate and win votes, regardless of the financial implications. “They do not care about the viability of the mine. Commercially speaking, BCL cannot be opened as soon as government wants because available mine reserves do not justify a business case. Government, especially the Minister does not understand and only wants BCL running again,” he said in an interview.

Dixon-Warren revealed that because he was, as the liquidator, making decisions that Government did not like that there was so much interference from both the ruling BDP and by opposition politicians that sought to micro-manage him, that it made the running the liquidation impossible. By resisting government intrusion into his administration of the mine. Sources involved with the liquidation report that Dixon-Warren angered government to such a degree that money which was supposed to be used to fund the liquidation became scarce, resulting in a compromised liquidation process.

“I suggested two options to Government, either they fund the liquidation as promised and let me proceed with the liquidation, or they agree to the process of transferring the mines back to government so they can run it their way,” he revealed while at the same time suggesting that Government’s mentality such that since the State set foot the bills, the State has to make all the decisions.

Confidential documents obtained by this publication reveal that government, headed by Molale, may have deliberately denied BCL Limited Liquidator Nigel Dixon-Warren of adequate funding to run maintain the mines, so as to strategically push him out.

It emerges according to newly available evidence seen by this publication that a process of transferring BCL and Tati Nickel Mines back to Government is ongoing and is expected to be completed mid-March. Dixon Warren would not go into details and confirm whether government was invoking its ownership rights under the minerals Act or whether they would allow for the mine to revert to government on a private agreement.

Last week, Wednesday 27th February, the liquidator held a meeting with his senior staff members, where they were briefed as per their routine monthly briefing, that BCL Limited will no longer be under Dixon-Warren’s control in a month’s time.

A report passed to this publication reveals that Dixon-Warren, the BCL Ltd liquidator wrote and submitted a proposal to government for the transfer of BCL Mines and smelter back to government in December 2018. It emerges, according to a report authored by Dixon-Warren, that he was not given enough funds for the BCL care and maintenance programme, hence the need to swiftly transfer BCL Mines back to Government because of financial constraints.

According to the report government Headed by Molale, has acceded in principle, to regaining control of the mines, a decision which government made in writing to the Liquidator by the 1st of February 2019. According to evidence seen by this publication the mines, BCL plant, Tati Nickel plant and the BCL Smelter will be transferred back to government while the corporate entity of BCL Limited, basically the registered name, will be left with the liquidator to dissolve.

Other assets, according to Dixon-Warren’s report, will remain with the liquidator subject to negotiations with Government. Dixon-Warren revealed in the report that because of limited funding, he is forced to bring in additional personnel to fast track the transfer process, which is expected to be complete by mid-March. According to the document, the Liquidator is preparing a Handover Document for Government which will be submitted around mid March 2019. The document will detail the current Care and Maintenance activities and the Liquidations plans for the remaining duration of the year. The document says there are a number of practical issues that Government will need to consider, but fortunately Care and Maintenance will not be one of them.

On the 14th February 2019, Minister Molale appointed a BCL Task Team, to visit the mine where they took a short tour, geared at expediting the re-opening ambitions.

Molale has been unhappy with the Liquidator and has publicly castigated him for wastage of funds, to the extent that he said he “has applied for the Liquidator to be removed from his appointment.” While government has applied for the dismissal of BCL Limited liquidator Nigel Dixon-Warren, the liquidator has however amassed money exceeding P65 million on his P2.2 million average monthly earnings since 9 October 2016.

Government is a major creditor of the Selibe Phikwe mine and has been supporting the liquidation. The defunct mine has so far cost the tax payer over P1 billion. In Parliament recently, Molale, revealed that total costs of legal fees paid out to-date exceeded P10 million, and that he blamed the liquidator for the costs.

The liquidator dismissed the allegations but said it would take him an extra 6 years to wind down BCL, which means he will be earning that P2.2 million monthly for those years.

The liquidator’s strategy is to keep the mine running to derive more. It is said that government is worried by the cost implications. Molale is worried that the longer process “would mean we support the function”. The limited funding according to sources is meant to frustrate the Liquidator out.

The liquidator himself said he has seen reports that an application has been made to have him removed, but he said that he had not been made aware of that application. He said he is also aware of suggestions to re-open the mines, which were reportedly defeated by him. However Dixon-Warren said the limited minable reserves are not economic to mine and that he was ready to hand over to government to find its own buyers.

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