The Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) last week dismissed Tati Nickel mine’s trailblazing corporate social responsibility program as a farce and a window dressing exercise that is meant to divert attention from the glaring corruption and mismanagement that is inherent in the company’s operations.
When submitting a strongly worded petition to the Tati Nickel management and to the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources last week, the BMWU poured water on the mining giant’s CSR program, calling it a blindfold exercise.
Tati Nickel’s CSR program was unveiled in 2006 after extensive research to identify urgent areas of need in the communities in which the mine operates.
When launching the program, then Corporate Communications Manager, Thuso Dikgaka, said that Tati Nickel’s CSR program was not meant to take over responsibility from government but rather to complement government’s efforts. He added that the campaign was aimed at improving and sustaining the livelihoods of the communities within which the mine has been operating with a view to doing business with them in future.
Tati Nickel engaged a consultant to identify small businesses within a 50 km radius of the mine so that they could assist them to grow and be sustainable and also impart business skills to the owners. Preference was given to small businesses in rural areas with a view to enabling them to become sustainable and compete evenly with other enterprises that were seeking business from the mine.
To date, Tati Nickel has assisted in the development of communities that are within a 50 km radius of its operations.
Among some of its notable contributions are a P400 000 mobile clinic, which services areas in the north-east district, among them Matsiloje and Pobepobe, most of whose residents previously had to travel long distances to the Matsiloje Clinic for assistance.
The clinic has a designated nurse who visits the catchment areas on a daily basis to provide health services. A doctor also makes weekly visits to consult patients in these areas. Other projects include a tannery, a kindergarten and a hair salon in Matsiloje. Another tannery, bakery and public garden were also opened in Matopi. The bakeries have exclusive contracts to supply bread to the mine. Women from the local communities have also been empowered to run the mine’s canteen.
Just recently, Tati Nickel splashed P950 000 on a Maths and Science results improvement initiative that is meant to develop students’ interest in engineering and technology programs so that they can, in future, fill the manpower void that is presently inherent in Botswana’s labour community.
When he was Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Charles Tibone hailed the company’s CSR program as the epitome of success in the government-private partnership for development program as evidenced by the mining giant’s slogan, “Tati Nickel Cares.”
Tibone and a horde of other civic and political leaders, including former President Festus Mogae, have, over the years, hailed Tati Nickel’s CSR program as a trendsetter and one of the best in Botswana. They lauded Tati Nickel as a model of foreign direct investment that is not only concerned with mining but also has the welfare of Batswana at heart.
“Tati Nickel’s continued efforts are proof that the mining company is not only a responsible corporate citizen of Botswana but also a valuable development partner to government. It is my wish that other companies can take the cue and also work to assist government in its development endeavors,” said an elated Tibone at the time.
But last week, the BMWU poured scorn on the mining giant’s CSR program.
They accused Tati Nickel of using its CSR program to present a rosy impression of itself as a Good Samaritan to the public when, in fact, it repeatedly ill-treats its employees. One of their bones of contention is that while the company continues to splash thousands of Pula into providing free medical treatment and education improvement incentives to the public, it does not do so for its employees. Tati Nickel mine employees are forced to pay for medical treatment, and the mining company only provides a paltry P600 per child for junior employees’ children’s education while senior employees enjoy as much as P38 000 education assistance.
“It would appear that TNMC uses its CSR program to blindfold the nation and divert the government’s attention from its internal mismanagement and unethical behavior. CSR programs are meant to give genuine assistance to those in need, not to cover dirty tricks,” read the damning petition.
In conclusion, the BMWU said that while they appreciate the company’s CSR program as it assists surrounding communities, it does not give management a license to mismanage the company and ill-treat workers.