Black workers petition white bosses for inhumane treatment
Khoemacau Copper mine (KCM) workers through Botswana Mine Workers and Allied Worker’s Union (BMWU) on Wednesday recently petitioned Botswana government over what they termed, “Unfavourable working conditions at the mine.”
The workers registered their complaints through a 17-long-page petition addressed to two cabinet ministers, that of Labour and Home Affairs and the Minister responsible for Mines. The petition was received by North West District Commissioner, Thabang Waloka on behalf of the ministers last week.
The mine, which is located in Toteng village, slightly over 60 kilometres outside of Maun along the Kgalagadi Copperbelt and its sub-contractors are said to be subjecting local employees to racial discrimination and exploitative working environment.
The aggrieved employees marched to the DC office and registered their complaints, emphasising that that they were tired of inhaling the stench of human faeces daily because their staff housing is located near the mine sewage dam.
“Different standards of accommodation were observed with different camps set for each race in Toteng. Black employees camp is near the mine sewage dam and ore processing plant. Black employees are exposed to the odour generated from human secretion and noise pollution from the ore processing plant,” noted Joseph Tsimako in reference to a recent labour inspection report on the mine.
Further the petition revealed that white employees abuse black employees willy-nilly and nothing is done about it.
“Assaults perpetrated by white workers on black employees are never reported to authorities and the victims are threatened with termination if they speak out. Whites are protected to do as they please on black employees to an extent of being deployed to different countries whenever a case of assault has been lodged against them,” further explained Tsimako who read the petition on behalf of mine workers.
The petition further alleged that KCM management delayed recognition of the Mine workers Union with intent of coercing employees to consenting to the 12-hour day exemption. “By handpicking employee representatives, management could manipulate or unduly influence by using contract termination to obtain their consent for the exemption. The same tactic has been observed from KCM sub contractors. This conduct by the employer is calculated, unlawful and fraudulent in all respects. The Union impugns the exemption applications by KCM and its contracted companies and on the premise demand that KCM exemption application be withdrawn.”
Further the petition has requested government to withdraw permits of expatriates machine operators and all those in employed in jobs that require skills that are in abundance locally. They also called for equal remuneration for equal work.
When receiving the petition the District Commissioner read a written response from the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Annah Mokgethi, in which she had noted that the petition had come at a time when her Ministry was engaging with KCM to address these matters of concern.
The minister further noted that a meeting has been scheduled for 24th October, 2023 with, government, the union and Khoemacau Management on this
Subject matter, “My Ministry remains committed to dialogue through the tripartite structures,” she said.