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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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No end in sight for Nam, Botswana borderline feud

27th July 2021
Namibian-report

Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.

Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.

“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.

Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.

The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.

The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River.  They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).

His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.

The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.

Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.

37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far

Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.

“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.

It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.

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Masisi gives KBL the “middle finger”

27th July 2021
President Masisi

Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.

This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.

In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.

“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.

Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.

Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”

Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.

He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”

According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.

Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.

“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.

He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.

Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.

“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.

He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”

Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.

However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.

In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.

“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.

Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.

“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.

Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.

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Gov’t gives parallel statements on COVAX

27th July 2021
COVAX---lelatisitswe

In  an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.

The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.

“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.

According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.

“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more  money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.

Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.

“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.

“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.

COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.

Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).

On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.

Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.

President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.

“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.

On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.

In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.

Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.

Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.

As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.

This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.

The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.

As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.

“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.

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