The closure of BCL copper and nickel mine has adversely affected the Selebi Phikwe airstrip/airport to levels of making financial losses and at the verge of collapse.The airport is located12 kilometers south east of the Selebi Phikwe near the gateway of Tuli Block area, where wildlife is prevalent.
Selebi Phikwe Airport Manager Bobeilwe Mvungama confirmed during the SPEDU media tour this week that the airport if financially going down to its knees since the BCL closed its doors in the mining town. “After the closure of BCL, the airport has never performed to its optimum best, financially,” she stressed out saying the facility can no longer attract flights. She added that the number of aircrafts using the Selibe Phikwe mini airport has been declining since the closure of BCL mine.
He continued to state that just last month in May, as an example, they only attracted 20 local aircrafts; 12 international airliners; in which they were carrying 42 locals and 9 international visitors landing into the airport. She further observed that there are no even scheduled flight services currently operating at the airport and therefore that there are not a busy airport as their movement is minimal.
“Since BCL closed shop most of these aircrafts are private jets like that of business men Satar Dada and Choppies CEO Ramachandran Ottapathu,” the airport Manager emphasized. Prior to collapse of BCL, Mvungama explained that “we would receive more than 200 visitors flying into our town.”
The airstrip financial showdown comes after the landing field was refurbished by SPEDU in collaboration with Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) in 2015 to attract more investors into the region to fill the void left by BCL. The airport is seen as crucial to the SPEDU region and had been identified as one of the strategic areas of development in support of the economic diversification drive and promotion of key economic opportunities such as tourism and other businesses.
CAAB, SPEDU blew P14 million to patch potholes at the airstrip
The airport was consequently refurbished with whopping 14.7 million pula tender awarded to Bango trading, which included patching of potholes on the 1.8 km run away of the airport. “The runaway had potholes. There were slats that were attacking the run away. So we were patching the potholes. The airport is old and dilapidated,” the Airport Manager Mvungama explained.
She said the major works of the project entailed overlaying the existing bitumen on the runway surface and clearing vegetation on the side. She stressed that before we refurbished the airport, the 1.8 km with a 30 meter width runaway was in a bad state and not usable. Further, he said, the project included putting road markings on the runway and taxi way among other things. The 14.7 million funds were sourced from Re-Employment Account (REA).
According to Mvungama, the refurbishment was again to ensure that the airport remains operational and at least to ensure that they meet the operational costs as profit currently cannot be met and, that assets are properly preserved. The contract duration was 90 days – a three month project which ran from May to August 2015. The project was a result of feasibility study which was conducted in April 2015 and recommended for the refurbishment of the airport with immediate effect.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.