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Old wenela miners owed millions

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Moswaanane calls on govt to help old miners get paid

Francitown West Member of Parliament Ignatious Moswaane has called on the Botswana government to have a clear position on how to help hundreds of Batswana who worked in the South African gold mines.

In 1936 Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WENELA) set up base in Francistown as a recruiting agency for migrant workers in desperate need of employment in the gold mines of South Africa.

The agency however collapsed in 1974 after a Blantyre bound WENELA plane DC4 Skymaster carrying Malawian miners crashed killing most of the passengers.

“It was a sad ending to a system that had contributed immensely to the growth of Francistown,” said Julia Mathumo whose father Benjamin Mathumo worked for WENELA as an Administration Secretary.

The 80-year- old Mathumo laments that while other businesses like Haskins paid employment benefits to their staff, those who worked for WENELA were abandoned by their white employers following the collapse of the agency.

Mathumo paints a sad story of a working force that was denied their dues after working for many years creating wealth for the employer.

“Sadly no one fought in their corner. WENELA just closed and that was it,” she said, her anger and disappointment written all over her face.

While she appreciates the positive impact that WENELA had in the second city, Mathumo is also of the view that the agency robbed Francistown residents of their independence.

“I’m of the view that WENELA disenfranchised the way Batswana lived. Our parents made traditional beer to pay for school fees. We had what we called tickets (permits), which allowed us to sell but this was taken away from our parents,” cried Mathumo.

She said if it was not for WENELA, a lot of Batswana could have grown to be biggest entrepreneurs in the region.

“Ratshosa family owned a complex and Mimosa Hotel, and there were three other hotels owned by native Francistowners whose businesses suffered due to the discriminatory legislation passed by the white elite,” she said.

NOT AMUSED: Mathumo

Mathumo said WENELA left a permanent scar in Francistown which includes the forced relocation of blacks.

“Our structures were demolished at no compensation,” she said.

“The biggest tragedy however is that many who worked for WENELA never received any benefits upon its closure and today they’re all wallowing in poverty.” said Mathumo.

“It’s so sad, Botswana was simply a bridge that WENELA used,” she said.

In his remarks MP Moswaane said there’re challenges in trying to help the desperate old miners, who may be owed money by the South African government.

“What is needed is for Botswana to approach the South African government and ask for data to trace our citizens who worked in the gold mines. Southafrica has all the records,” Moswaane said.

The Francistown legislator said he has personally assisted two miners, one in Tonota and another in Molepolole who eventually received their money.

“All that is needed is to make contact. It’s a strenuous process because most of the old miners didn’t have Identification Cards (Omang) nor Postal Address, so tracing them is a big challenge,” he said.

The MP said a radio programme or periodic publication of names of the old miners on the Daily News could help many who have long given up hope.
“Some are sick and should be paid benefits accrued during their service,” he said.

The WENELA situation is not unique to Botswana, in Zimbabwe over 8000 old miners are to be paid their dues in a settlement worth R5billion.

Ex WENELA Miners Association of Zimbabwe’s lawyers received the historic settlement in 2016, after it was approved by the Gauteng High Court last year in July.

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Sangomas’ fatal battle

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Trio implicated in rival’s fiery death

Three traditional doctors in Serowe will have their spiritual powers put to the test as they race against time to escape a possible death penalty for the gruesome murder of a rival medicine man on 19th February.

The trio of Keitumetse Dudu Seakane, 34, Phaphane Jack, 27, and Gladys Dintwa, 52, is accused of burning Mhanje Raplanka alive at his home in Itsokwane Farms, just a few kilometers from Moiyabana.

The three sangomas, who were granted bail by Serowe Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 19th March, appeared again for mention this Monday.

Speaking to The Voice, No. 2 District Officer Commanding, Paul Oketsang, confirmed the trio has been charged with the 67-year-old Raplanka’s murder.

However, the top cop would not go into detail as the matter is sensitive and still under investigation.

In an exclusive, emotional interview with this publication, a family spokesperson revealed they received a call at midnight on February 19th from concerned neighbours at the usually quite lands.

“They said people were killing our father and we should rush as quickly as possible to fetch him as he needed medical attention,” narrated the source, who pleaded to remain anonymous as he still has to give evidence in court.

The spokesperson is convinced the mastermind behind the cold-blooded murder was Gladys, the deceased’s niece.

“From what we learnt after the old man’s death, Gladys, who’s a traditional doctor, had once asked her uncle to pass on his shrine to her, a request he flatly rejected.”

According to the source, the holy shrine in the middle of the elderly man’s farm has long been a source of envy for Gladys, who desperately needed it to fortify herself.

Narrating his version of events from the fateful night, the family member claimed the trio drove together in a Honda Fit owned by Jack, parking close to the corrugated mud hut where an unsuspecting Raplanka lay sleeping.

“Gladys remained behind in the car, while Keitumetse and Phaphane proceeded to the house. They took a bath at the gate before entering the yard,” The Voice was told.

Suspects

The two sangomas allegedly doused the house in petrol before setting it on fire.

“From what we heard, the old man somehow managed to break through the door before he was completely consumed by fire. But they knocked him down with a log and poured more petrol on his burning body,” said the source, who remained remarkably calm considering his gory narrative.

Convinced Raplanka was dead, the two men reportedly returned to the car and fled the scene.

“Miraculously, he managed to extinguish the fire and staggered to the next yard, about a kilometre away, where he narrated his ordeal and named his attackers. It was the neighbours who alerted us and the police,” continued the family insider.

According to the source, a police van arrived an hour later to pick the badly burnt old man, who unfortunately died on the way to the hospital, a few kilometers from Moiyabana.

The suspects were arrested around noon the next day.

They are due back in court for mention on 2nd June.

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Botswana confirms four (4) cases of Covid-19

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  1. As noted yesterday Botswana has confirmed 3 cases of Covid-19. We now report a fourth Covid-19 case, this case is of a 79 old lady from Ramotswa who unfortunately demised on the 25th March, 2020 and was buried over the weekend on the 28th March 2020. She had travelled to Motswedi, South Africa on the 14 March 2020 and returned the following day on the 15th March 2020.

She started showing symptoms on the 21 March 2020 and later developed fever. It was noted that she had a significant other, comorbidities. On return from Motswedi she was kept on home quarantine from where she was brought to Bamalete Lutheran Hospital.

She was seen in Accident and Emergency and put under mandatory quarantine where she died on the 25 March 2020, and burial conducted with the necessary precautions of someone suspected to have highly an infectious disease.

Contact tracing is currently underway and so far 14 have been identified, quarantined and tested for Covid-19. Results are awaited.
Regarding the previous 3 cases we would like the Nation to note the following:

  1. The first case is a 47-year-old male, Motswana who came from Basingstoke, travelled to the United Kingdom on the 29th February 2020 and returned on the 21st March 2020. At the time of arrival the patient was asymptomatic.

The patient developed a fever (>38°C), coughing and running shortness of breath, the patient was swabbed on the 28th March 2020. The patient was tested at the National Health Laboratory (NHL) and also referred to National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa.

  1. The second case is a 40-year-old female Motswana who travelled with her husband to Thailand on the 10th March 2020 and returned to Botswana on 20th March 2020 through Dubai, and through OR Tambo and SSKI.

The lady developed sore throat, was coughing and had a headache.

She was swabbed on the 27th March 2020. The patient was tested at the National Health Laboratory (NHL) and also referred to National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa.

  1. The third case is a 42-year-old male Motswana who travelled with his wife to Thailand on the 10th March 2020 and returned to Botswana on 20th March 2020 through Dubai, and through OR Tambo and SSKI.

The male was coughing with a temperature of 37.8°C. He was swabbed on the 27th March 2020. The patient was tested at the National Health Laboratory (NHL) and also referred to National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa.

As we face this challenge I call upon you my Countryman to stand together in unity as we fight this scourge. We together shall prevail. We have done this before and we shall do it again.

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