As the clock is ticking to the looming general elections slated for October, some Selebi Phikwe residents have vowed to elect a political party that will create sustainable jobs for them. The economy of the former mining town is currently on its knees, after government took a decision to shut down BCL mine which was the lifeline of Phikwe, leaving thousands of former miners jobless and hopeless.
The Patriot on Sunday conducted random interviews with residents to grasp their expectations from numerous political formations that have intensified their campaigns ahead of the much anticipated polls. One resident, Motswakgosing Mhaladi said as a voter he expects whoever will attain state power to make a serious overhaul of the town which heavily relied on mining. “We were informed that one day BCL mine was going to cease operation that is why government formed Selebi Phikwe Diversification Unit (SPEDU) in an effort to diversify the economy of the town. When BCL finally closed shop, SPEDU was 8 years old but the organization does not have any tangible results up to date. The unit has failed to attract investors to come and set up in our town,” Mhaladi averred. He opines that the buying power has since been eroded in Phikwe as the mine employed around 8 000 people including those that were hired by companies subcontracted by the Copper and Nickel mine. Mhaladi explained that a report compiled by SPEDU indicates that after the closure of the mine, 10 400 people lost their jobs adding that such a massive job loses has negatively affected even the informal sector.
Mhaladi noted that Phikwe needs political leaders that have the interests of the town at heart not those that are seeking political office for their own selfish reasons. He is of the view that Phikwe has now relegated to a ghost town with no meaningful economic activities. “Government should consider re-opening BCL mine as a matter of urgency to breathe life to the ailing economy. Without BCL, the town will struggle to attract investors,” he stressed. According to Mhaladi, Copper prices have drastically increased and therefore if BCL is re-opened it will definitely be profitable. The seemingly distraught Mhaladi said it is heart-breaking that graduates with engineering degrees are roaming in the streets of Phikwe unemployed. Mhaladi expressed disappointment that ever since President Mokgweetsi Masisi ascended to the presidency he has failed to visit the town to share his plans on how his administration will resuscitate the economy of the former mining town.
Another resident, Constance Makgosa reiterated Mhaladi’s sentiments that the only lasting solution to Phikwe’s misery is to re-open the mine. “The former miners are now enrolling on the Ipelegeng programme due to lack of job opportunities in the town. We need meaningful change in our town and our political leaders need to come up with strategies to rescue the town,” she pointed out. Kabo Gaadise said youth unemployment is extremely high in Selebi Phikwe as there are no meaningful job opportunities. He noted that as Phikwe residents they will only vote for a political party that promises to create jobs for them.