Saturday, September 26, 2020

Botswana faces unrest if nothing is done about Selebi Phikwe

CAS Consultants have warned of social unrest in the country if no measures are taken to ensure the long term survival of Selebi Phikwe beyond BCL Mine’s life-span.

In a document running over 100 pages that has been recently adopted by cabinet ministers posed challenges for Ian Khama’s incoming government and added that “doing nothing is not an option.”

Selebi Phikwe, which is about 300 kilometers from the capital city Gaborone and is the bread-basket for the Bobirwa area with about 55,000 residents. The report comes at a time when BCL Mine ÔÇô started in 1974 ÔÇô is in desperate measures to extend the lifespan of its mine to 2020.

“Loss of earnings and employment from the closure of the BCL would result in migration of the population away from Selebi Phikwe, as individuals and families sought new employment. There would be a fall in demand for public services and a probable scaling back of employment in such fields as education, health, local government and police.

“In the absence of measures to diversify the economy of Selebi Phikwe, there can be scarcely a family in the town which would not be affected adversely by the closure of BCL. Socially, a fall in employment opportunities is likely to result in a growth of unrest, disillusionment and crime as young people are unable to apply their education to employment and to channel their energies positively,” the report said.

The two consultants said there is a need for an immediate action which will include the adoption of a “charter” on Selebi Phikwe with a backing of a swath of millions of pula. They have recommended the setting up of an officeÔÇö- which the post of its chief executive officer has been advertised ÔÇö- to report to the director general, Moses Lekaukau.

The establishment of an office to run the affairs of Selebi Phikwe is an implicit admission that BEDIA has failed the country over the last nine years of its existence.

“The closure of BCL will also have serious effects in the country at large. BCL currently uses around 18 percent of all electricity that is generated in the country. If the mine and the smelter close, and unless this slack can be taken up by another consumer or for export, there will be pressure on the Botswana Power Corporation to raise electricity tariffs nationally to compensate for its loss of earning,” the report said.

They further stated that the closure of the mine in the absence of any diversification plan will lead to an increase of HIV/AIDS infections as people would have nothing to do. The loss of employment is estimated to affect close to 30,000 people who are directly and indirectly linked to the mine.

“First, all the scenarios described aboveÔÇöloss of employment, loss of revenue, negative social effectsÔÇöwould happen. However, both pace and effects would be far worse and widespread.

“In the absence of a clear statement on the part of the government of Botswana that it is committed to supporting a programme of diversification for Selebi Phikwe, and the setting up of a dedicated and properly resourced diversification unit, the message would soon spread and gain credence that government ‘did not care’ and that Selebi Phikwe was doomed,” the report said.

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