Monday, October 25, 2021

Norilsk’s out of court settlement…Not yet Uhuru

While recent media reports shows that the executive arm of government has approved a P430 million payment to Russian company, Norilsk Nickel, discussions at Parliament shows that the company will have to wait a little more before it get paid.

This follows a recent decision by the Parliamentary Committee on Finance and Estimates to the Ministry of Minerals Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security’s request of P430 million to pay Norilsk Nickel.

The imminent payment follows a law suit by Norilsk against  the government owned BCL Limited for walking away from a deal to buy its stake in a South African mine in 2016.

Initially Norilsk Nickel sought reimbursement to the tune of US$270 million (about P2,5 million) from the Botswana government over a botched deal by BCL to buy a 50-percent stake of its Nkomati Mine.

The Russian mining giant had served notice to sue on the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang, and the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo and the Attorney General.

Norilsk Nickel announced on its website that it intended to sue the government of Botswana “in respect of its involvement in the reckless trading of BCL Limited and BCL Investments Proprietary Limited (together “BCL”), with a view of recovering $271 million plus damages and other costs that are owed to Norilsk Nickel in relation to the sale of a 50 percent interest in the Nkomati Mine in South Africa and $6.4 million that are owed to Norilsk Nickel in relation to the sale of the Tati Mine in Botswana. Botswana is the ultimate shareholder of BCL through its corporate vehicle MDCB.”

Norilsk agreed to sell operations including its 50 percent stake in South Africa’s Nkomati Mine to BCL Group for $337m in 2014, later reducing its price to $271m. But BCL filed for liquidation in October in 2016 just before the transaction was due to be completed, with the Botswana government claiming that it was unable to afford the purchase

Last week, it emerged that while the executive arm of the government has approved the P430 million out of court settlement payment through a Presidential Directive the Parliamentary Committee sees the approval of the payment by the executive as “interference”.

“The committee also believe that since the matter is under Judiciary process, which is another arm of government, Parliament or the executive should not interfere”, reads part of the recommendations by the Parliamentary Committee on Finance and Estimates.

As a result of the Parliamentary Committee on Finance and Estimates sentiments, on Thursday Minister responsible for Finance Kenneth Matambo was forced to withdrawn from the Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure of the Consolidated and Development Fund.

“As honourable members will have noted, the finance and estimates committee of Parliament has not recommended the request of the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security. This request therefore is being deferred for consideration at a later date following further consultations with the committee”, Matambo said on the floor of Parliament on Thursday.

The Parliamentary Committee on Finance and Estimates is chaired by Ignatius Moswaane and when the matter was brought before it, Member Parliament Tawana Moremi was the Acting Chairman. Other members of the Committee are MP Likat Kablay, MP Shawn Nthaile, MP Kenneth Segokgo, MP Bogolo Kenewendo and MP Ngaka Ngaka.

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