Technocrats swarm mining juniors

Former top government officers continue to position themselves in upcoming and existing mines, either in boards or management immediately after quitting civil service.

This trend has been evident in the country’s mining industry where former top minerals, energy and water resources officials have been engaged once they retire or quit civil service. While their employment within the same industry they used to regulate as government officials has raised eyebrows, a top commercial lawyer does not see anything wrong with it. “The fact of the matter is that they are no longer employees of government, so they can join any company of their choice,” said Sipho Ziga.

The latter is a partner at one of the country’s biggest law firms, Armstrong Attorneys. This week’s appointment of former Permanent Secretary of minerals, energy, water resources Boikobo Paya to the board of African Copper is one of the many examples of former technocrats who have moved swiftly to join mining juniors. Paya has been appointed Non-Executive director at the listed copper company with immediate effect. As a former top official in the ministry, Paya like many of his former colleagues in the same ministry, had in one way or the other, played a role in approval or rejection of many applications by the company he has now joined.

The ministry is the regulator of the mining industry. Ziga explained it could only be wrong if it can be proven that, a former senior government official used his powers to favour a company, which he or she has joined. Minerals ministry, which Paya once headed issues among others mining and exploration licences. African Copper, which has a market capitalisation of P172 million mines copper at Mowana mine, where it unearths 3,000 metric tonnes on a daily basis. Another former government official in the same ministry who has joined mining juniors is Gabaake Gabaake, who is now at Tlou Energy. He is the African Regional Manager for the energy group, but based in Botswana. Gabaake is also a past Permanent Secretary in the same ministry as Paya. Tlou Energy is a Brisbane-based company that is currently exploring for Coal Bed Methane (CBM).

They own Lesedi project. Lesedi CBM project is the most advanced project in Tlou’s portfolio. The project’s prospecting licences extend for approximately 3,800km2 (955,000 acres) in the Karoo Kalahari Basin, south-eastern Botswana, its website states. It is not surprising that former influential government officials are joining the private sector, especially at executive or board levels. “These companies need them. They are important when it comes to government relations,” Ziga told BG Business on Tuesday. “They need someone with experience with government operations,” Johannes Tsimako, General Manager of Khoemacau Mining Company said. He is a former director at energy department within the minerals, energy and water resources ministry. Tsimako’s company is at an advanced stage of setting up copper/silver mining near Gantsi.

The company has applied for a mining licence with the country’s mining department. It was not known by press time if they have been granted a mining licence. Ribson Gabonowe is also a former government top official who is now riding on the crest of a wave in the lucrative mining industry. Gabonowe has been a mining engineer with over 25 years of experience in Botswana and the continent.

He served as director of Mines in Botswana’s Department of Mines from 1995 to December 2006, Business Weekly has stated. Also a former deputy permanent secretary at local government, Gabonowe is now Chief Executive of Boteti Mining, a subsidiary of Lucara Diamond Company. Boteti Mining owns Karowe diamond mine, which over the few years that it has been in operation, has managed to unearth exceptional diamonds.

Gabonowe has also been a director at the troubled Discovery Metals Limited that owns Boseto Copper Project. He has since resigned from the BSE listed company, which will stop production in June. Gem Diamonds, a rough diamonds producer has tapped into the skills of Haile Mphusu, also a former government official. He is the Chief Executive of Gem Diamonds (Botswana), an unlisted firm that owns Ghaghoo diamond mine in Botswana. The mine is located at Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Ziga, whose main area of expertise also includes mining and resource law, said the former influential government officers are at liberty since they don’t have any influence with government matters that affect the companies they decide to join.

The list is not only limited to technocrats. Politicians have also joined the bandwagon. Former President Festus Mogae now chairs Choppies board of directors. He also has shares in the biggest grocery group. The immediate past Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe has also been appointed chairman of Sefalana group that owns Shoppers and Sefalana Hyper.




Last modified on Friday, 16 January 2015 16:38

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