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Tsogwane summons Debswana chief over scannex

Publishing Date : 06 August, 2018

Author : KETUMILE RAMATITI

Vice President Slumber Tsogwane, who is also Member of Parliament for Boteti West will intervene in a long standing dispute involving the Debswana Mining Company, its employees and Ministry of Environment, Conservation, Natural Resources and Tourism.


Tsogwane who has been touring his constituency met with management of Debswana’s Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines as well as employees this week to address a number of issues.  Top of the agenda was the controversial scannex machine. The device will be used to replace the search system which is conducted in high risk areas where workers are obliged to take off their clothes to be searched.


The development to install security gadgets is said to make a local operations at par with other mines especially in South Africa. However there is a resistance from the employees, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) and Minister of Natural Resources Tshekedi Khama. The argument from those who are against the installation os scannex is that: “the radiation from the machinery is hazardous to the employees.” There has been a delay in approving the scannex machine as the government through the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is stalling the approval.


 Following the deliberations with both employees and management, Tsogwane has decided to take the matter with Debswana Managing Director, Balisi Bonyongo.  “This has been noted and it is a serious matter, I will engage Mr. Bonyongo very soon to see how best to deal with the matter.” he said briefly amid a thunderous applause from the floor.


According to Debswana, 36 percent of the workers smuggle diamonds out of its mines by hiding them in the anus, 30 percent hide them between their buttocks, 14 percent use their socks and hair, 5 percent conceal the gems in their mouths, 2 percent place the gems under their scrotum, 2 percent hide them in their clothes, 2 percent use their underwear and 10 percent use other means.


The VP has nonetheless not committed the timeframe with the unhappy lot as to when he will meet with the Debswana chief to discuss the delicate matter, according to sources. WeekendPost has been informed by a high ranking Debswana employee who was part of the meeting that employees also used the opportunity to speak about the need for increment of staff salaries.  


“It is a serious matter of which the VP discussed with us and for now there is nothing to do since superiors are dealing with the issue. Moreover it is not like we only discussed the scan thing, we talked to a number of other pressing issues including the salary increment,” said the source.Debswana had planned a close to P50 million installations of ten upright, full-body Scannex X-ray scanners at four of its diamond mines in Botswana. Four scanners were to be installed at security checkpoints at Jwaneng, four at Orapa and one each at the Letlhakane and Damtshaa mines.


Under the system 200 scan can be conducted annually. However pregnant women would be exempted and will be given new roles to avoid being scanned. Debswana according to sources has already received approval from the Radiation Protection Inspectorate, but has been turned down by DEA.


Meanwhile, it is noted that the Scannex has a low X-ray radiation dose that allows for quick scan time. Its operations are fully automated and X-rays are automatically turned off should any error occur. Each machine has a built-in dose area product, or DAP, meter that measures the X-ray dose whenever a scan takes place. The Scannex’s dose limit is one millisievert per year (mSv/y) per individual, which is in line with the International Commission on Radiology Protection limit of one millisievert per year for members of the public.  


In the past various stakeholders including specialist-Disease Control Dr Nkomo pointed out during a stakeholder’s consultative meeting that all should be done to protect people’s eyes from over exposure to radiation as they are very sensitive. “My understanding is that radiation has no threshold; dealing with radiation is not straightforward given that there are causes that may exacerbate cases, like the genetic make-up of individuals.”


The company has already installed these gadgets in other mines in South Africa and Namibia. On the other hand Eunice Mpoloka, senior projects manager has in the past stressed the significance of the development. After the reviews the outcomes revealed weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The two reviews were followed by an internal one that confirmed security at the mines leaves a lot to be desired.

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