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Govt suspends Jamalis road construction

The government has finally ordered property tycoon Sayed Jamali to suspend his ongoing projects involving construction of roads linking Gaborone with Tlokweng, following a litany of spirited complaints from various stakeholders.  

Jamali, a businessman who says has a strong attachment to Tlokweng had planned to construct roads linking the village with the capital city. The proposal was endorsed by the central government without blessings from the local authorities, council and tribal leadership. Initially Jamali came with a plan to construct a road with a toll-gate linking the eastern side of the village with Phakalane/Ruretse. This was immediately shot down by the village leaders saying it is a money making gimmick.

“We couldn’t allow for that, where will the money go?” asked a source rhetorically.  Additionally the businessman was not given a green light either by the council hence the leadership could not approve the development. Sources tell this paper that the council only gave the investor a green light to do a road on condition that he consult Batlokwa and comply with whatever their requests, something he failed to do, according to impeccable sources.  The road is connecting the western side of the village with University of Botswana/Maruapula.

 The 5 km road was proposed to ease congestion from other roads due to the anticipated traffic problems owing to the use of stadium facility, constructed also by Jamali. The stadium is expected to be completed soon. “Right now we don’t have the plan we just grade it, the Chinese company will do the real road,” one of the workers shared few months ago. However, all that is for now, a pie in the sky as the council has released moratorium blocking all the developments.

 When WeekendPost visited the site on Wednesday this week, there were neither personnel nor equipment on the field, confirming that indeed the road construction has been halted. This has brought joy to the tribal leaders and the residents as they maintain that “consultation is key in whatever project taking place in their land.” “We have long said this, he [Jamali)] should wait for moratorium before doing anything but he decided not to. All the roads he had graded with the hope that they will be dressed with bitumen but now back to zero,” said a source from the Kgotla.

It is said officials from the Roads Department under the Town and Country planning the roads were not gazetted. “They were not and further they encroached on other people’s homes so they have redirected that the roads be adjusted so that there will be no conflicts,” an informant who met with council officials said.  

This is contrary to Jamali’s claims. “The road has been gazetted and since the government was slow, as a private business I financed the project. This is so because I have attachment to the area. The developments have not demolished anything except part of the tribe’s trust land which is not affected anymore.  Those who make noise are against the developments.”


It is not clear when the road project will resume but it is expected to take some time as planning officials at Gaborone City Council will have to be involved to see how best to construct the proposed roads. “A number of things are at play here, we should conduct Environment Impact Assessment and see if that soil is okay for road construction and also measure the distance between homes and the road so for sure we will have to wait,” Kgosi Spokes Gaborone said in an interview.Other projects including the construction of an 8000 seater stadium, hostels, hotel and other facilities are under way, as they are under Jamali’s personal 50 hectare plot.


GOVT REJECTS JAMALI’S OVERHEAD ROAD

Meanwhile government has through the Ministry of Transport and Communications rejected a proposal from the businessman to erect an overhead road connecting CBD and Western-By-Pass. The road according to Jamali was planned to ease congestion and link Jamali’s properties. “I have businesses at Westgate Mall (along Western by-pass) and CBD and I want to ensure my clients travel smoothly. The road will be for the general public to use, no tollgates or whatsoever since it is not the government policy yet to have those,” he said.

The businessman categorically stated that this proposal happened under the leadership of Ian Khama “who was very supportive to a number of initiatives aimed at assisting Batswana.” However it has come out that the relevant ministry was overlooked. The Ministry of Transport headed by Kitso Mokaila is not aware of the impending construction. The ministry says the project is not in their developmental agenda. It is said the only interchange planned in the Western by Pass (BTV- Game City roundabout) which the government is in partnership with the World Bank. The plan already has passed the tendering committee.

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Batswana owe banks P79 billion

27th March 2023

The Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, has disclosed that the total bank credit extended by commercial banks amounted to P79 billion, out of which P53.4 billion was retail loans and advances to households.

Parliament was informed this week in response to a question by the Member of Parliament for Selibe-Phikwe West and Leader of Opposition (LOO), Dithapelo Keorapetse.

“As at 31st December 2022, loans and other advances extended to households by banks constituted the largest share of bank-lending at 67.6 percent, the majority of which was unsecured personal loans at P36.2 billion (67.8%),” said Serame.

She added that the total household Debt to GDP ratio was 21.9%, while the total private business credit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was 10.8%.

On the other hand, it was noted that outstanding mortgage loans extended to households were P14.2 billion (26.6% of household debt) or 5.9% of GDP. Overall, total bank credit as a ratio of GDP stood at 32.7 percent.

It was acknowledged that there are 10 deposit-taking banks in the country, that is, nine commercial banks and one statutory bank (Botswana Savings Bank). This statistics excludes the National Development Bank (NDB), which is a development finance institution. The nine commercial banks include an indigenous bank, Botswana Building Society Bank Limited (BBSBL), which was issued with a commercial banking license by the Bank of Botswana in October 2022.

Still in December 2022, it was recorded that there were 376 non-bank lenders in Botswana consisting of 246 micro lenders, 66 finance companies, three leasing companies and 61 registered pawnshops.

According to Minister Serame, the loan book value representing the principal amount lent by these entities to individuals and to small, medium and micro Enterprises (SMMEs) is collated by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), which at 31st of December 2021, the loan book values were P5.6 billion for micro lenders, P1.6 billion for finance companies, P225 million for leasing companies and P14 million for pawnshops.

Government policy is that price control is not effective or desirable, and, as such, interest rates are not regulated. Non-regulation may, among other things, result in an increase in non-interest rate fees and commissions, reduced price transparency, lower credit supply and loan approval rates.

“It is important to note that, from a macroeconomic perspective, household debt in Botswana is neither a pandemic nor considered to be excessive. Indeed, the Bank of Botswana’s periodic and continuous assessments of household debt, including through the annual Household Indebtedness Surveys, suggest moderate household indebtedness and therefore, is of no apparent risk to the safety and soundness of the domestic financial system,” said Serame.

She also alluded this assessment is validated by the recently concluded Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) on Botswana undertaken by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.

Keorapetse however rebuked the issue of debt not being excessive and noted the Minister thinks it’s fine for Batswana to be debt burdened in a way that their debts diminishes their quality of life.

“A significant portion of Batswana’s salaries go to servicing debts and because she doesn’t see this as a challenge, there can never be any intervention from her side. There is no price regulation on interest, which can go up to 30%+ a month.  Since President Masisi ascended to the high office in 2018, 2 384 Batswana were put in prison for failure to pay debts, that is 467 Batswana every year. So, for us, debt problems are big and concerning,” said Keorapetse.

He said they are worried because Batswana are drowning in debts because of relative poverty, slave wages and unemployment/underemployment, they buy basic needs and services with borrowed money and noted predatory and unethical lending has become a major problem in Botswana’s financial sector.

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How to fleece P14 million from Chinese investor

27th March 2023

The modus operandi of how five men allegedly swindled a Chinese national P14 million last week continue to unravel. Highly placed sources from the intelligence, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) revealed to this publication how the whole scam was concocted.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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