I am not going to apologize on behalf of the Government and put the blame of BCL closure on the shoulders of the government- says Molale
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last week decided that they will halt a motion by Selibe Phikwe West legislator Dithapelo Keorapetse aimed at forcing government to consider re-opening the non-operational BCL mine. The BDP used their numerical power in parliament to kill the motion.
Last week Friday saw Keorapetse persist, yet again, with his campaign to have government consider re-opening the BCL mine as he moved a motion in Parliament aimed at forcing government to acknowledge a critical economic safety net for the embattled district. According to the Selibe Phikwe legislator, the motion calls for the government to make the mine re-opening a priority through inter alia cost-sharing of the environmental rehabilitation liability and extending other incentives to prospective investors interested in running the mine.
“This motion is not calling for the government to open and run BCL mines. It is urging the government to aggressively ensure that the mine is reopened by interested investors by removing all hurdles because the state is distinctively placed to play this role”. The outspoken MP, acknowledged the Minister’s efforts but encouraged him to speed up the process of removing hurdles and consider other avenues of protecting the interests of the mining community and their dependents.
However, spirited BDP legislators led by Vice President Slumber Tsogwane argued that it will not be wise for the government to re-open the copper nickel mine. According to party insiders the reasons behind killing the motion is the belief that “it will be a waste of money just like Ipelegeng, if the government could try to resuscitate the mine,” says a source.
“It is a very redundant motion. Government was rational, decisive and purposeful when closing the mine, BCL was not making profit,” said Mmopane Lentsweletau legislator Vincent Seretse when debating the motion. Nata/Gweta MP Polson Majaga, opposing the motion, claimed that that Keorapetse should have included other mines (Mowana and Toteng), in the motion if he wanted his (Majaga’s) vote.
The BDP parliamentarians’ position on Keorapetse’s motion was, according to a BDP source, agree upon at a party meeting prior to the vote.
“So the argument is, as a party we should unanimously agree that it will be naïve to re-open the mine because it is not making business sense.” Revealed the source and further confirming that “Yes most members agreed with the request as it was coming from the leadership (Tsogwane).”
Despite some party cadres supporting the idea of opening the mine they had to “respect the party decision not to support the motion as it had been instructed, following Polson’s (Majaga) motion on direct election of the president which was not given blessings by the leadership,” added the anonymous member.
The debate of the motion was deferred as only three MPs debated before the quorum collapsed forcing the speaker Gladys Kokorwe to call off the proceedings for the day.
BCL was closed following an Urgent Application to the High Court in 2016 after the government said it was not profitable to continue operating it. It subsequently emerged that the government needs P6 billion to re-open the mine, and the Selibe Phikwe community’s dream of seeing the mine reopen has become a lost cause as government has shown no interest in resuming the operations.
The Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Eric Molale has transitioned from his previous call to open BCL to expressing support for Seretse’s sentiments, saying the government took the right step in closing the mine. This, sources say, he reiterated at a party meeting to drive the point home as to why the motion should not be allowed to pass.
“I am not going to apologize on behalf of the Government and put the blame of BCL closure on the shoulders of the government. Government has done nothing wrong as some of you from the opposition anticipate. So forget about hearing me apologizing to the nation over the closure of the BCL mine shafts,” he informed parliament.
Molale said closing the mine in 2016 was not a fault that could be attributed to government as the circumstances which the mine was under led to the resolution to closing it. Minister Molale has further taken his counterparts head on, saying that there is no anticipation that the mine may open soon. He confirmed that the relationship between Government and mine Liquidator Nigel Dixon-Warren has turned sour and broken down permanently.
Molale, however, would not be drawn into divulging the details that led to the tense relationship between the two parties.
“Prices for the key metals in BCL’s revenue basket have recovered impressively from the levels experienced in the lead-up to the closure of the Group because of the advent of electric and hybrid cars, construction boom in China and other demands elsewhere,” argued Keorapetse, when calling for the mine to be re-opened.