Friday, February 26, 2021

BCL caught in the middle of controversy over its links to Kentz SA

Mystery surrounds how Kentz SA, a leading South African mechanical and electrical engineering firm won a multi-million Pula contract at the BCL mine in Selibe Phikwe. The firm is already on sight seemingly as part of preparations for the mine’s scheduled shut down. The shut down entails large scale maintenance and renewal of production lines.

Citizen owned electrical firms are already crying foul. They say Kentz should not be the involved in BCL. An association of citizen owned mechanical and electrical firms has written a formal letter to BCL management seeking clarification on Kentz involvement on a contract that could easily be carried out by local firms. Though a private company, BCL is a 100% Botswana Government owned operation. BCL has recently been expansion spree including buying mines in South Africa.

Botswana citizen owned firms are concerned that the arrival of Kentz SA which they allege is not represented locally and would not be paying taxes here is also a sure way of exporting Botswana jobs to South Africa at a time when the economy of Botswana needs jobs the most. Kentz has had a tempestuous relationship with Botswana. A little less than a decade ago, a subsidiary of Kentz in Botswana was liquidated leaving many Botswana businesses that it owed millions of money in the lurch. Such businesses could not get their money from Kentz SA as they were told the two were different entities even as it was clear that that shareholdings and directorships of the two overlapped. It was suspected at the time that the mother company in South Africa was deliberately liquidating its Botswana holding as a way of not honouring its credit obligations to Botswana suppliers and creditors.

At the time, Kentz Botswana was by far the biggest electrical and mechanical engineering firm in Botswana. The head of Public affairs at BCL, James Molosankwe confirmed that BCL had indeed received a letter of complaint from citizen association of mechanical and electrical contractors.

The area Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe, Dithapelo Keorapetse has also been roped into the controversy. By time of going to press, BCL had written back to the citizen contractors asking them to put their communication on a piece of paper with letter head. Citizen contractors read the BCL management response as a delay tactic on the part of BCL to allow Kentz time to entrench its foothold at the mine at the exclusion of citizens.

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