In an effort to accelerate the sluggish implementation of the Selebi Phikwe Revitalisation Strategy, Government has moved to advance the implementation by setting up a special Cabinet Committee to identify hurdles that impedes the successful execution of the strategy.
Addressing a full council meeting in Selebi Phikwe last week, the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo said the recovery of the economy of Selebi Phikwe and the SPEDU region remains a priority hence Government’s continued efforts aimed at finding a lasting solution that will make Selebi Phikwe achieve full economic sustainability.
Kenewendo noted that the cabinet committee will address all shortcomings and fast-track all processes to ensure that the implementation of the strategy moves with speed. Kenewendo underscored President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s pronouncement regarding the re-birth of Selebi Phikwe which he made in his maiden speech as president on April 1st.
The committee is expected to address issues of regulatory delays like the Environmental Impact Assessment which councillors said often hold up projects thereby stalling progress and negatively affecting strategic growth plan. Echoing the president’s sentiments, Kenewendo reiterated that Government will particularly intensify its efforts to revitalise the economy of the SPEDU region to effectively respond to the closure and liquidation of BCL. She stated that Government through her ministry will continue with promoting investor fiscal and non-fiscal incentives that include low general tax rates as part of the revitalisation strategy in order to attract investors.
“The incentive packages are preliminary. Investors are looking for more, particularly a more enabling environment for business. The special cabinet committee that has been put together will look into the overall Phikwe business environment,” she said. The Minister also pointed out that Government will expedite the implementation of the Special Economic Zone through the Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZA). She revealed that the Investment ministry will work hard to service the land allocated to SEZA so as to make the environment enabling for business.
She commended SPEDU for its effort, noting that progress has been made albeit being slow. She pointed out that an accelerated pace of progress is anticipated once everything takes shape. She outlined targeted investment shows and strengthened collaborations and proper implementation of the Economic Revitalisation Programme as key in realising an increased pace of progress.
The Selebi Phikwe Revitalisation Programme is headed by former Bank Governor, Linah Mohohlo as Coordinator. Kenewendo added that a successful resuscitation of the Selebi Phikwe economy need full support of the local authority to facilitate investment promotion by making the environment conducive for business for thrive to be able to create employment.
“We must all work together to transform the country for the better. We must be active participants in supporting the National Transformation Agenda. We have a transformation agenda as ministry so as to improve our services,” said the minister who was in Selebi Phikwe on retreat with the leadership of the ministry and of all parastatals under the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry. Councillors hailed setting up of the special Cabinet committee as a welcome development as it proves Government’s sincerity of commitment to hasten the process of reviving the economy of Selebi Phikwe and the SPEDU region. However, they were sceptical of delivery as they bemoaned lack of delivery on the many promises made by Government ever since the closure of the mine.
Councillor Evelyn Kgodungwe of Thakadiwa Ward said that despite the many promises, there is nothing to show of Government’s commitment to deliver on all promises made. Kgodungwe noted that SEZA existed before the mine closure and wondered whether it has been expanded to cater for the sad realities of the mine closure.
Nominated councillor and former Mayor of Selebi Phikwe, Leonard Mojuta requested the minister to consider assisting resilient companies that have remained in Selebi Phikwe despite the closure of the mine which similarly affected their revenue. He said these loyal investors if assisted, can also help in creating sustainable jobs for the people of Selebi Phikwe. Mojuta emphasised the importance of not only looking for foreign investors while neglecting local ones that may have the potential to turn around the economy of the town.
Investment Land under SPEDU
Meanwhile, out of the 74 industrial plots under the authority of SPEDU, 15 plots have been allocated to investors. The plots were allocated in April 2017 through a tender process after consultation with the SPEDU Board. Additional 20 plots are under review to be recommended for direct allocation by end of June 2018. The allocated plots are not fully developed and there is no industrial activity as yet. The developments of these allocated plots are at different stages of development which include de-bushing, fencing and design. Construction for at least 50% is estimated to start by June 2019.
SPEDU’s Director for Strategic Projects, Jazenga Uezesa revealed in a correspondence to council that there are no jobs created by the 15 companies that have been allocated land except for those who were engaged during the preparation of the plots. SPEDU continues to engage these 15 developers to encourage them to develop the plots according to their development agreements.
SPEDU’s correspondence was addressing questions raised by Councillor Evelyn Kgodungwe of Thakadiwa Ward who had wanted to know how may plots out of the 74 plots under the authority of SPEDU have been allocated to investors, how many have been developed and with industrial activity taking place, the total number of people employed by the companies allocated plots and if SPEDU had any corrective measures to ensure development of the plots.
SPEDU is currently engaged with 41 companies that have expressed interest in establishing in the SPEDU region. These companies are at different stages of progression. Fifteen (15) companies are at Expression of Interest stage, six companies being one for Thune Irrigation Scheme, Botoka Temo, Urban Agriculture, Aviation Investment and Development Company, SK Group and AD-Infinitum Consultants-Blue Energy Africa are all at assessment and due diligence stage.
Two companies are at request for land allocation stage. The companies are Higher Motors and Silkroad. Another two are at Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) stage. These two companies are for Truck Stop and Bulk Fuel Station and Refurbishment of Bus terminal as well as development of a commercial centre.
Five companies for the Farm Electrification along Motloutse River project, Platjan Bridge Construction, Pula Dynes Pharmaceutical Plant, Cabling Data Centre and Oxygen Gas Air Separation Plant are at the stage of factory shells renovation. Four companies, Almaz, Asante Tech, Bulb World and Better Service Group are currently at the stage of installation of equipment while only seven companies are at operational stage. The seven companies in operation are Kwenantle and Tsarona for Lotsane Irrigation Project, NaPro, Dinesh Textiles, Allegiant, Nitaz Collection and FIL-AM Textiles.
According to SPEDU, one of the challenges hindering the development is insufficient strategic infrastructure that include inadequate number of factory shells and serviced land. The development, approval and implementation of the SPEDU incentives is one way that the Government is being supportive in facilitating SPEDU companies and investors.
Councillor Kgodungwe had also wanted to know the progress with SPEDU companies or investors who want to set up businesses in Selebi Phikwe, the challenges hindering envisaged development as well as Government’s commitment to facilitating SPEDU companies.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.