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Dubai billionaires to ‘buy’ Selibe Phikwe

Emirate Investment House, a consortium of United Arab Emirates rich businessmen from Dubai are in the process of investing billions of Pula into the entire Selibe Phikwe and SPEDU region and turn them into an empire of value chain businesses and cash spinning enterprises – highly  placed sources revealed to WeekendPost this week.


Sources close to developments have disclosed to this publication that investors who recently arrived in the country and were interested in re-opening the mine now want more than the mine and want to turn the whole area into their own economic hub, in line with what the Revitalisation Strategy seeks to achieve.


Suggestions are that Linah Mohohlo who was tasked with coordinating the efforts of resuscitating the once vibrant copper mining town through the Phikwe Revitalisation Strategy played her cards right and convinced the investors to not only pump money into saving BCL alone but to invest in other activities autonomous from mining in the region.


“This is a delegation encompassing highly connected and loaded business magnates, they run and own multinational corporate entities with multibillion dollar revenues, they are looking into tens of  billions pula investments locally,” said a source who preferred anonymity. WeekendPost investigations reveal that SPEDU executives along with Mohohlo are scouting for investors from the Emirate Investment House to resource and realize their mandates.


Mohohlo has used her investment wooing expertise to convince and solicit interest from the Abu Dhabi Arabs, and sources reveal she is succeeding as the investors expressed interest and wish to turn the region into their base for agriculture, transport and logistics, international trade as well as manufacturing, exactly what SPEDU seeks to achieve as well.


Sources close to SPEDU and Mohohlo offices have revealed that a chunk of land would be readily available for the Arabs to branch into high value large scale agriculture as well as manufacturing. “The entire SPEDU tourism master plan, agricultural potential unearthing blueprint would be handed over to these investors as soon as they are done with BCL take over,” he said. Minister Kebonang has confirmed that the Dubai investors were not only eyeing BCL but will venture into other business sectors.


 “The Emirates Arabs will invest in agriculture, manufacturing, transport and logistics and government is ready to make the ground fertile for them to undertake such ventures as long as jobs are created for our people,” he told WeekendPost this week however underscoring that it might not necessarily be in Phikwe.Efforts to reach Phikwe economic recovery coordinator, Mohohlo were not successful. SPEDU is of the view that their aim was to woo any serious investor to setup economic transforming business and judging by the progress so far, jobs will be created.


THE CASE FOR SELIBE PHIKWE


Selibe Phikwe became a special case last year when government decided to put BCL mine under provisional liquidation due to loss making operations caused by amongst other reasons low copper and nickel commodity prices.BCL dissolution shocked the entire nation and the aftermath left Selibe Phikwe and the entire eastern block in an economic stand still.


Immediately government introduced measures to try counter anticipated socio-economic impacts. From October last year to date the harsh effects of the dissolution of the region’s economic nucleus have not been that catastrophic as anticipated owing to ex-employees still enjoying terminal benefits, and lately shares from their 5 year BCL Staff pension fund which paid collectively over P150 million to qualifying members in February this year.


With the government BCL closure package slowly reaching its afternoon, the aftermaths of the mine closure are expected to hit hard on Phikwe settlers. Incentives included the government paying school fees for former BCL employees’ children attending private English medium schools aimed which is expected to go on until the end of the last quarter of 2017. Currently over a significant number of former BCL miners are still occupying staff houses.

THE BCL SALE


Things may ease up sooner than previously believed should Minister Kebonang’s helter-skelter investor wooing marathon bear fruits, as matter of fact it seems to be already outputting positive results. The group of rich Dubai tycoons are about to seal a deal with Botswana Government on BCL sale – Kebonang was quoted as saying. Critics have raised concerns over the sudden worth of BCL deposits to be up for grabs whereas the initial sentiments were that the company and assets were valueless, as well as lack of consultations on the matter.


However Minister Kebonang, has stated in various interviews about the BCL mine sale that the government reserves the right to consult the public or to deal with the matter privately considering the sensitivity and high value worth and monetary language of the subject.
“I don’t know what consultation people are talking about, we are dealing with a sensitive issue here, moving with speed to try and save thousands of jobs by looking for monetary able individuals,” he was quoted as saying recently.


Last week the Dubai investors visited BCL and undertook a due diligence exercise, a comprehensive appraisal of a business undertaken by a prospective buyer, especially to establish its assets and liabilities and evaluate its commercial potential. Reports indicate that the investors were impressed by what they saw.


“They assessed the company assets and looked into any information they required,” Provisional Liquidator Dixon-Warren had revealed. According to him, the prospective buyers are expected to make an offer and if agreed upon, purchase of shares would be conducted. “The intention is to put liquidation at halt as soon as possible and hand over the assets to the investors,” he said.


Kebonang revealed last week that government as the largest BCL creditor because of shareholding is willing to forgo its stake from BCL sale returns so that other creditors can be fully paid. “We are looking at about 300 million USD these investors are willing to pay as an offer to take over the assets; and looking at that money, almost all of it will go to creditors such as BPC, Altlas Corp, Air lique just to name but a few and the government will only in return be looking at having its people going back to work,” he explained last week in an interview with one of the local private radio stations.


Kebonang also added that the new BCL owners would further  pump over 2 billion pula into the mine to prepare it for operation “well over 2 billion will be required to refurbish the mine, remodel and restructure the mining shafts, and re-arrange the smelting operations to re-craft the entire mining setup to a modern profit making operation,” he stipulated.


NAPRO UP FOR SALE
 

National Agro Processing Plant (NAPRO) is also geared for privatization, WeekendPost has gathered. Established last year as National Food Technology and Research Centre (NAFTRC) commercial arm, NAPRO processes tomatoes, onions and other vegetables to increase their shelf life. The plant initially established and funded by Office of the President with over P100 million is said to be approaching zero balance status in their working capital accounts.


Earlier this year in Talana Farms, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Partrick Ralotisa made remarks that the Plant would be sold to any interested investors with the aim of turning it into a world-class food processing entity. Information reaching WeekendPost suggests the Dubai investors have been sold the idea of pocketing NAPRO as well to enhance their agricultural and food processing ambitions in Botswana.


 An Executive from NAPRO who preferred anonymity told this publication that rumours of the plant being privatized have reached their understanding “Yes, we know that any time we might find ourselves no longer under NAFTRC of Botswana Government,” they said. According to the source NAPRO financial figures are not commercial and business viable for continuity under the current setup.

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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