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BCL’s last hope extinguished

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BCL's last hope extinguished

Any lingering hopes over the possible revival of BCL mine were dashed this week after President Mokgweetsi Masisi did not touch on the subject during his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

On Monday afternoon, Masisi delivered his second SONA since ascending to the presidency.

One of the highly anticipated issues was the potential re-opening of the Selibe Phikwe-based mine, which has laid dormant for over three years now.

A day after Masisi’s 73-page SONA speech, BCL assets, mostly vehicles were, auctioned to the public in Phikwe, a move which all but killed any hopes of its re-opening.

In his brief remarks on BCL, Masisi revealed the task team set up to carry out an evaluation to delineate the company’s assets completed their work at the end of June this year.

He explained the report has since been submitted to the new liquidators to consider the findings and facilitate decision making on the next stage.

“Since taking over the liquidation process in August this year, the new liquidator has given seven companies permission to carry out due diligence reviews on BCL and Tati Mining assets, to inform themselves if they can invest in the assets,” said Masisi.

He described the process as a ‘delicate and complex exercise’ that will take time to evaluate and implement.

BCL was shut down in October 2016 – news that was delivered by Masisi himself – and placed under provisional liquidation before it was placed under final liquidation in June 2017.

In February this year, Tati Nickel Mine was also placed under final liquidation.

The exercise has proved to be extremely costly, with government still pumping funds into the process.

Indeed, prior to the closure of the eleventh parliament, former Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale announced that the liquidation process has gobbled a massive P965 million from government coffers.

This amount, Molale stressed, did not include loans and advances by government to settle employees’ benefits and utilities.

Before he left his role as the BCL liquidator, Nigel Dixon-Warren told Voice Money the whole liquidation process is likely to for on for the next decade. He further brushed aside any possibility of the mine re-opening.

Government also has a pending court case against the Russian mining giant Norilsk before the London Court of International Arbitration regarding the cancellation of a contract over the purchase of Nkomati Nickel Mine in South Africa.

As a result, the Russians are demanding a US$271 million claim against Government of Botswana over the botched deal.

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Battling for booze

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Battling for booze

Liquor industry wants alcohol sale ban lifted

Botswana Alcohol Industry Association (BAIA) is lobbying for government to follow the example of neighbouring countries and lift the ban on alcohol sales.

Their main reasoning being that citizens who live close to the border may be tempted to sneak out of the country in their desperation to buy liquor. They note this would be detrimental to the economy as well posing a serious health hazard.

The Association Chairman, Mothusi Molokomme told Voice Money they believe the ban – in place since 27 March – should be lifted to allow the public to purchase alcohol and consume it at home.

As much as the main focus is for bottle stores and wholesalers to open for trade, Molokomme revealed they also want bars to be opened, noting they are the only centres of distribution in some of the country’s remoter areas.

He stressed that bars should be allowed to operate on a ‘takeaway’ basis but only after they satisfy Covid-19 prevention protocols.

“The main worry is that there will be loitering around the bars. But it is our belief that operators will strictly adhere to the regulations and allow for takeaways only,” stated Molokomme.

The Chairman pointed to the recent surge in homebrews as indication that the ban should be lifted.

During the period of lockdown, the police have recorded escalating cases of homebrews, which in some instances have even led to the loss of drinkers’ lives.

“There is also a regional factor because South Africa has announced it will be opening next week. Namibia is opening as well and Zambia has always remained opened and because of our porous borders, we may see the illegal coming in of liquor,” continued Molokomme.

He said areas located along the borders of these countries pose a threat to liquor contraband.

While the association advocates for the ban to be lifted, he says as the industry, they will also intensify their message for safer consumption and promote good behaviour among consumers to exercise precautionary measures.

“We are hoping that we will reach an agreement. It will be difficult to convince government when it comes to opening of bars, but we cannot sideline the bars because, in some areas they are the only available points of sale,” reiterated Molokomme, who doubles as the Managing Director of Distell Botswana.

The association was scheduled to meet with the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI), Peggy Serame this week to map a way forward regarding the sale of alcohol.

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Business

Crafting a new life

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Crafting a new life

The Enterprising Welder Me and My Business

Absorbed and happy in his work as a car mechanic, an unlikely request from a client three years ago changed the course of 35-year-old Bokamoso Selthabi’s life forever.

The self-taught welder now designs and makes various products from metal, including troughs, trailers, cages, kraal fences and other farm implements.

Having initially set-up shop in the North West of South Africa, his home of three years, the Morwa native retraced his steps back to Botswana to continue Bucha Rest Welding.

Recalling the meeting that altered his existence, Setlhabi told Voice Money he was working as a mechanic when a customer asked him to build a trailer for him.

“I made the product for him. After that he brought two more guys wanting my services. From there it grew into a fully-fledged business,” he explained.

“The business has now been running for two years based in South Africa. It is only at the beginning of this year that we relocated to Botswana,” continued the multi-talented craftsman, adding he briefly explored the Namibian market as well.

While he is still new to the local market, with much of that time blanketed by Covid-19 restrictions, Selthabi admits he is yet to reach a point where he can say business is as good as it was in South Africa.

“So far it has been a bit difficult locally. Some of the products that we do like metal kraals are still not highly rated here but we are working hard to market such products as a good alternative to wooden kraals,” he noted, a steely determination evident in his tone.

Setlhabi explained that one of the perceived disadvantages of products like metal kraals is because the metal conducts heat.

However, he points out that this can be overcome by simply applying paint.

“The good thing about it is that it is durable and lasts longer than other materials used to construct kraals,” he highlighted.

Despite the current low uptake of his products, the enterprising welder is optimistic his fortunes will soon turn around.

“It is promising because, when you work with customers who are not used to what you are doing, you have to carry out extensive marketing of your products. We hope when life goes back to normal after the pandemic there will be some improvement,” he said, adding that items such as feeding containers have proved popular and are in demand.

“We also have customers waiting across the country,” he added.

Other challenges – and the one Setlhabi describes as his biggest – is copycats who attempt to duplicate his work ‘but often fail to match my skills’.

“We have social media pages where we post our products. People would want to do exactly the same but often do not succeed because our designs are unique and the quality is top-notch,” said the National Craft Certificate (NCC) holder proudly.

As the business is still at infancy stage, he has engaged one person to assist but hopes as the enterprise grows he will be able to employ more.

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