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How Brite Star dumped bed ridden Selebi Phikwe

Controversial Brite Star Aviation, a purportedly US based company which was destined to develop an Aviation plant to resuscitate the bid ridden economy of Selebi Phikwe following the collapse of BCL copper and nickel mine dumped Botswana for Malaysia, Weekend Post has learnt.

This is notwithstanding a signed official Memorandum of Understanding the company entered into with SPEDU, Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB), Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Selebi Phikwe Town Council (SPTC), Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) and the Ngwato Land Board.

Based in Fredericksburg, Texas, with Directors from Hungary, Brite Star had promised to develop in Selebi Phikwe an aircraft manufacturing plant, where B22 lightweight aircraft will be manufactured, aviation academy, the aircraft service/maintenance/repair, pilot training academy, a research and development centre and Eco safari tourism among others. 

The manufacturing plant was estimated to cost a whopping 1.5 billion pula in which Brite Star was to solicit the funds from both Botswana government and abroad in order to design and build the state of the art plant. In the process, Brite Star assured Batswana to create at the plant more than 3000 jobs in the then succeeding five years in Selebi Phikwe – to compensate for more than 6000 people that lost their jobs –when the BCL mine collapsed. 

Speaking at the media tour organised by SPEDU this week, Chief Executive officer (CEO) Dr. Mokubung Mokubung confirmed that indeed Brite Star dumped Botswana and he heard reports that they opted for Malaysia instead.  The company claim to have a number of operations in the US, Hungary and China.

“I heard that after abandoning Botswana, they went to Malaysia to invest the said Aviation school. They left us hanging, stranded and hungry for the deal that did not see the light of the day,” Dr. Mokubung said this during the media visit at the Selebi Phikwe airstrip/airport which is adjacent to where the 1.5 billion pula aviation plant was to be developed.

He continued: “there is a cartridge this side next to this airport spanning 10 hectares of land that we secured for Brite Star Aviation plant. We did first stage of due diligence and what was left was the next stage of due diligence. However the company then pulled out from the agreement. They did so by simply saying they will be back and went into thin air.”

According to Dr. Mokubung, it appears they were not the only one which Brite Star was targeting and that include the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and even international and it seems they preferred other countries other than Botswana, mostly likely Malaysia.

“They didn’t even write to us to inform us that they have pulled out of the deal despite having signed a proper Memorandum of Understanding,” he observed.  The SPEDU CEO said they are disappointed by Brite Star decision as the ‘shady’ company took a business decision on their own in America and Hungary while dumping Botswana. 

“They shunned us notwithstanding that they have given us reasons that Phikwe has free air space and therefore it will be good for the aviation school. We have made proposition at the government to put in place utilities like water and extra power and the rail spare and all were in order in our judgement.” 


Dr. Mokubung recounted that, at that point where Brite Star started keeping quiet, and kept quiet for long, they then discussed the matter with Board of Directors of SPEDU to call the deal off and tell Batswana that “it failed.”  Another board member who was also on the tour buttressed the CEO by adding that when there is a problem somewhere, like it was the case in Selebi Phikwe, everyone can claim to solve the problem and may try their luck as Brite Star did. “And then when you want some kind of due diligence then they chicken out.”

The board members stated that the collapsed deal with Brite Star, had made them to come to a point where they have to question the real mandate of SPEDU whether there is no how it can be strengthened because as it stands “we simply facilitate, we canvass, we cajole the companies to invest in Selebi Phikwe region and then what? If they refuse/ dump us, then what?”

Recently, Brite Star Legal and Transactional Advisor, Advocate Efan Khan has told a local newspaper last year that Brite Star has not finalised its intention to set up its Aviation Assembly plant in Botswana as yet. “Some issues still require to be addressed such as (Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), utility connections etc. If those items will delay Brite Star’s entry into Botswana, Brite Star may consider other countries to locate its Aviation plants since Brite Star has to deliver on confirmed orders for aircraft,” said Khan at the time.  

Meanwhile, some key people and decisions makers in Selebi Phikwe have always been sceptical about the plan SPEDU has with Brite Star calling it dubious and shady. Among them, Selibe Phikwe West lawmaker Dithapelo Keorapetse had told Weekend Post that it was not clear whether the company, Brite Star, is genuine and had good intentions to develop the desperate Selibe Phikwe.

“I wish to caution government and SPEDU to be cautious about flyby night investors who will take advantage of our desperation to revitalize the economy of our town,” Keorapetse highlighted back them about the company which he asserted that “raises eyebrows”.

He said Botswana should have learnt a lesson from the 500 million pula Palapye Glass Project where the company name is also nowhere in the list of approved manufacturers in China or Hungary where it claims to have presence.
Keorapetse asserted that Brite Star Aviation is not a multinational corporation specializing in aircraft parts manufacturing and maintenance and pilot training as they purported.

“I hope this is not a company trying their luck in the aviation industry through the help of Botswana government. Aircraft manufacturing maintenance is no child's play, it takes many years of research and development, innovation and huge investment, this track record is unclear for Brite Star,” he said then. Due diligence, according to the MP,  must be done to the fullest before the government injects money and gets robbed like in Pula Steel and the collapsed 500 million Palapye Glass Project.

In an email conversation with this publication, Mbaki Ngaiti, an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer with Air Namibia, also had his reservations with Brite Star citing that the competence of the company was unclear. “While this sounds very exciting in terms of the positive socio economic impact such a huge investment would bring to the struggling mining town, it would be very naïve not to scrutinise Brite Star Aviation to determine if indeed their promises will come to fruition.”

He said Brite Star Aviation is just a group of aviation hobbyists and enthusiasts, operating a lodge in a hangar in Fredericksburg. Meanwhile the Legal Advisor for the company Brite Star Aviation Advocate Khan explained to Weekend Post recently that “Brite Star Aviation is a joint venture set up for the proposed Botswana and other operations.

It will incorporate a local Botswana company in the event it proceeds to invest in Botswana.” He also said then that the entity has not entered into any partnership or joint venture with the Botswana Government. He said on October 20, last year, Brite Star Aviation will be flying into the country with their engineers and other people to do designs of the plant at Selibe Phikwe.

“Their shareholders approved funding. They will show us the money in Botswana and millions will be deposited. They would have put necessary funds in their Botswana account. Already they have opened an office in Gaborone. We will give them the benefit of the doubt.” Unlike the Arabs who ditched the Botswana government at the eleventh hour, at least for now, he said, they can trust Brite Star Aviation.

However, the deal has collapsed and Brite Star is nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, when answering a question in Parliament still last year, the then Assistant Minister of Trade, Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Biggie Butale said they were not aware of any red flags that should raise alarm as the proposed development was similar to what the Brite Star was currently establishing in Malaysia and ‘this project is purely a Foreign Direct Investment venture.’

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Bangwato regent speaks ‘respect for Dikgosi’

23rd May 2022
Bangwato

Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.

Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.

Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.

One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution

Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.”  Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.

She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age.  Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.

Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.

Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.

For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.

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Parliament unveils major shake-up plans & reforms

23rd May 2022
Parliament

Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.

The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare.
Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.

According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned.  It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.

“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said.  Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.

The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.

The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.

The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.”  The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana.  It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.

“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.

Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.

“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversification of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly.  It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).

“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.

Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.

The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.

“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said.  The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.

The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.

“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).

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Salbany, Bareetsi threaten to sue DIS

23rd May 2022
Salbany Bareetsi

Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.

After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.

They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.

“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.

They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”

They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.

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