Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Introduction of Scannex cause uproar during BMWU commemorations

The introduction of Scannex Full Body search x-ray machines in the diamond mines stood out as a bone of contention during Botswana Diamond Workers Union (BMWU) May Day commemoration at Kanye.

Unionists shunned it as a health hazard while employers advocated for it as a ‘reliable security measure’. Arguments on the issue were raised in the form of speeches that dominated the commemoration.

First to hit on the subject was Acting BMWU President, Joseph Tsimako.

“You have already heard that Debswana Diamond Company is due to introduce scannex machines in all of its mines disregarding protests from the workers. We have demonstrated that current diamond security systems are adequate hence there is no need to expose our members to ionizing radiation,” said Tsimako. “Debswana is on the other side leading a propaganda campaign alleging that security of diamonds is inadequate and the economy is at risk but without showing how or even the number of diamonds stolen from our mines. The statistics they have shown are not about Botswana diamonds according to their presentation but central Africa and Namibia figures and in fact shows huge decline in diamond theft.”

He added that the giant diamond company has in the process put aside the International Labour Organization (ILO) Radiation Protection Convention 115 for non-medical but commercial purposes.
He was giving opening remarks for the day.

Giving the state of diamond mining in Botswana, the Managing Director of Debswana mines, Jim Gowans, said the Scannex Full Body search x-ray machines were not the health hazard that Tsimako mentioned in his speech. Instead, he said, on top of promoting dignity to employees as they would not be searched everywhere by other human beings the machine would do the work to protect the minerals. He said they valued technology as the machines have been used elsewhere in the past 25 years and no health hazard was detected on their usage.

But another speaker, Bob Malele took the podium and lambasted the use of the machines. He said Debswana is fighting a vicious war on BMWU to introduce scannex full body search x-ray machines.

This, he said, was a big issue in that Debswana has failed to show how many diamonds have been stolen from Debswana. His union is opposed to the introduction of the machines because their consultants have shown that the x-rays attack body cells and can kill them or make them change their form. When mutation happens their genes can produce abnormal species.

“So after working for Debswana, our future generations are going to be deformed. Debswana will not be anywhere to be found or answer for their faults,” he said.

Malele expressed concern over the fact that their employer prematurely left consultation with them and has resorted to public meetings used to convince Batswana that scannex is good because it protects the economy but nothing is said about how it will affect their health.

“Again we are not even invited to those kgotla meetings. Government, through the Department of Radiation Protection, has given Debswana license to install these x-rays on the basis of a task team report but not recommendations from the negotiations and consultation forum. Again government is not willing to consult us or did not do so before they issued the license. Now the emphasis is about the economy but not the people. Our view has always been that current security of diamonds is enough and we have not changed,” he said.

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