Australian mine boss faces police probe after allegations he called President Khama ‘foolish’ and ‘gay looking’
Police in Maun are investigating a Discovery Metals (DLM) mine boss for allegedly calling President Ian Khama “a foolish and gay looking unmarried man.”
Two former employees who reported the matter to the police, Dipuo Sethembeni, 33, from Francistown and Patrick Bagwasi, 39, from Tutume accused their former boss, Gene Nicholls an Australian, of uttering the rude remarks which they found insulting and demeaning.
Sethembeni, a multi skill operator told The Voice that Nicholls’ made the offensive comments after mine-workers queried their bosses decision not to invite employees to the President’s official opening of the copper mine last month.
When answering the employees questions an irate Nicholls allegedly said that he was not the fool expected to waste his time by going around addressing people about the mine’s official opening. “Your foolish President should have done that, not me,” he is reported to have said.
A staunch BDP supporter and President Khama fan, Bagwasi said that after he heard about the remarks from Sethembeni he was so infuriated that he felt he couldn’t let such a demeaning comment about his President go unchallenged, so he took it upon himself to confront Nicholls.
“ Since I work in a different section of the mine from the one that initially heard him make the insults, I confronted him and asked him to confirm or deny whether he indeed uttered the remarks which were now on many mine workers lips. I wanted to get my facts right before reporting him to the police.”
Bagwasi added: “Nicholls was visibly angry and replied by saying he was sick and tired of the President issue and did not give a damn about it.
“I was with my colleague Nixon Maxala who still works for Discovery Metals and he is ready to testify in court that he indeed heard the man say he did not give a damn about our ‘unmarried and gay looking President.’ ”
Maxala corroborated Bagwasi’s testimony.
Before he was fired Bagwasi claimed he was told to keep the allegations within the confines of the mine premises if he wanted to keep his job.
“When I insisted that I was going to report the matter to the police I was immediately given a suspension letter which was shortly followed by the termination of my contract,” Bagwasi said.
Meanwhile DLM Managing Director, Brad Sampson denied any knowledge of the issue despite claims by several mine workers that the accused offender, who is reported to be out of the country, was nearly beaten by employees for his alleged remarks until another boss apologised on his behalf.
“I am not personally aware of any conversation between Nicholls and other staff at the mine and cannot comment on that. But what I can state is that DML has an extremely high degree of respect for the President and Government of Botswana.”
Nicholls could not be reached for a comment at the time of going to press since his employers declined to divulge any information on his whereabouts.
Confirming police involvement in the matter, Head of Public Relations Unit for Botswana Police, Assistant Commissioner Christopher Mbulawa said that the police were investigating such a case.
He added that once their investigations were complete they would hand over the docket to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions to decide on whether to prosecute or not.