- Motswana employee was allegedly assaulted by an Australian
- There is now reported tension between the locals and their foreign colleagues
- Safety compromised as the mine allegedly hires inexperienced and unqualified foreigners
- Foreigners also reportedly given minor jobs that should have been reserved for locals
A physical altercation between a Motswana employee and an Australian at the Khoemacau copper mine in Toteng recently is said to be the tip of an iceberg, to a much bigger problem that threatens working relations at the operation.
At the heart of the problem are racism allegations at the mine, that even the Botswana Mine Workers Union is aware of. These are said to be manifesting, with the working environment having become volatile and unbearable for the locals, who feel hard done by the Australians.
In the recent assault case, the Motswana employee was allegedly assaulted by his Australian national after he (Motswana) questioned him over certain safety measures after the latter had reportedly bridged underground. The foreigner is said to have gone beyond the demarcation point without authorisation.
“The complainant saw him coming through whilst he was still loading, and asked who authorised him because he knew the supervisors were on the other side so there was no how he could have gotten permission from them. This is what led to the white man assaulting him,” concerned Botswana Miners Workers Union (BMWU) General Secretary, Maenge Maenge told this publication.
The incident according to Maenge has resulted in tensions between Batswana and their foreign colleagues who are mostly Australians.
“I understand that even after the assault there was another incident whereby another foreigner refused to assist locals with equipment they needed to use for duty, a heated argument then ensued,” Maenge revealed.
He said locals are not able to meet and discuss their grievances for fear of being victimised as the employers have reportedly bridged their privacy.
Maenge also expressed disappointed about how the assault case was handled as well as the way the complainant was been treated.
“The guy was assaulted on the 8th but he was left to spend the night in pains on claims that there was no transport that to take him to Maun, but there is an ambulance and so many vehicles that could have been used. He was only taken to a doctor the following day but when he got there the doctor did not ensure that a police report was filed. The management also did not report the matter to the Department of Mines as it is a requirement,” the union representative further complained.
He indicated that both the local and the foreigner have since been suspended from work.
Maenge expressed that they are surprised as to why the victim was also suspended, adding that it is understandable for the perpetrator to have been suspended. He was reportedly suspended on allegations of gross misconduct for the physical altercation and it is said that the complainant should lodge a complaint for action to be taken against the foreigner.
Maenge expressed concerned that safety issues happening at the mine are aggravated by racism occurring that side noting that many locals are forced to work and live under poor conditions. He reported that at the camps there is preferential treatment which the whites are given highlighting that the clinic that is there is more like its only for the white people. He further highlighted that were majority of Batswana stays the place is not habitable.
Maenge further indicated that there are also issues of overtime where people are working long hours without rest. In his own words Maenge said it is like there is a silent way of saying you are not allowed to go on leave highlighting that during the 14 days when one is on duty it is not easy for that individual to go on leave.
The other concerns he complained about is that there are foreigners there who are working without permits while there are those who are working with permits even though they don’t have the qualifications for the positions they are holding. He said the safety compromises are caused by the reason that people are unskilled and are only given jobs because they are aligned to certain race.
“You will find that Batswana are appointed just to meet the legal requirement but after the appointment the authority is withdrawn from them and decisions are taken by the whites,” he revealed. Maenge also complained about foreigners who are doing jobs that should have been reserved for locals such as driving forklift and being front end loaders.
While efforts to reach authorities at the mine was not successful at the time of going for print it has surfaced that the mine will in early next month host the media in a tour of the mine probably as well as to respond to racism and other damning allegations that have been made against them.