Saturday, October 16, 2021

Ministers and officials fighting over diamond beneficiation

Senior officials at the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs have recommended the withdrawal of the work permit of a senior Israeli diamond cutting consultant working for Molepolole-based Leo Schachter.

This was after employees at the cutting firm reported the consultant for using abusive language like “bullshit” against them.

Fearing for his arrest, the Israeli has since fled the country.

Requests by the company’s owner, Elliot Tannenbaum (who says the employee is crucial to the company’s operations in Botswana), to get an assurance from Ministers Ponatshego Kedikilwe and Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri that the said employee will not be arrested were he to come back have been rejected.

Among other things, the consultant is accused of sexual harassment.

“We have refused to give such immunity. We told the company owner that we do not have the powers to make such assurances. In Botswana the rule of law is always allowed to take its own course,” said Matlhabaphiri in an interview.

In an interesting turn of events, the souring relations between diamond cutting firms and the government over the accusations have seen the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Minerals, Kago Moshashane, lock horns with his minister.

In an interview, Matlhabaphiri said through out the fracas he has been surprised to see Moshashane go all the way to take sides with company management against the employees.
According to Matlhabaphiri, at one point, the Permanent Secretary Moshashane told the meeting attended by his political principals that he had no faith in the officials from the Ministry of Labour and the report they had produced.

“Maybe it’s because he is a member of the Board of Directors of Leo Schachter. But for him to say he has no faith in the employees of the Ministry of Labour is unacceptable,” said Matlhabaphiri.
This was after Moshashane tried to trash the report prepared by the Ministry of Labour that spelt out a litany of bad industrial relations at Leo Schachter.
Matlhabaphiri said, taking a cue from the firm’s management, Moshashane accused the visit by Minister Kedikilwe to the cutting firm to have been a source of a spate of poor industrial relations there.

The report blamed the management, especially the consultant, for many of the evils.

“The management has now written us a letter saying productivity at their firm has deteriorated. They allege that the employees are breaking the stones and are always running to labour for protection,” said Matlhabaphiri.

He said they have advised the management to strike a working relationship with the workers “because in Botswana trade unions are part of our fundamental human rights. We have also told them that as much as we want foreign investors we cannot attract them at the expense of our people,” said Matlhabaphiri.


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