Recent news of BCL having attracted lucrative buyers from the cash spinning economy of Dubai was received with mixed reactions by both Selibe Phikwe residents and Batswana at large. The Selibe Phikwe Economic Revitalization strategy, launched last year November is also facing a number of challenges in delivering on the expected jobs.
Controversy surrounds BCL sale The landing of Arabic Tycoons and their constant visits to Botswana has stirred controversy, particularly on social media, media commentary and the political fraternity. The government is accused of privatizing BCL without consultation and following proper democratic steps to dispose a national asset of BCL’s magnitude. WeekendPost gathered from BCL liquidation critics that government had long wanted to privatize BCL but wanted to trick employees and Batswana by staging a fake insolvency.
“This is by far day light robbery, looking at the money used to liquidate this company and few months later we are told someone is going to buy it, why didn’t the government put BCL under judicial management and scout for investors without being harsh to employees and tricking Batswana,” commented Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament, Dithapelo Keorapetse.
According to Keorapetse, government had long drawn up a blueprint to loot BCL as BCL ore deposits are one of the high grades in Africa. Reports link BCL disposal masterminding to Mineral Development Corporation Chief Executive Paul Smith. Smith and his Mineral Development Corporation team have been meeting Dubai investors for the past two weeks now. According to reports associated with BCL privatization, liquidation will be manipulated to accommodate fast-tracked handing over of BCL assets to Emirates Investment Group (EIG) led by Abdulla Mangoosh.
“The Tycoons have met Liquidator Nigel Dixon Warren and we are going to witness different kind of events post March 15 after the court sitting, it is expected that final liquidation will not go through,” a source revealed. According to sources the government enclave through Advocate Sadique Kebonang is moving against time to present an attractive deal to the Arabian.
“The arrangements now are moving towards closing everything up to the favour of this Emirates, there will no longer be auction and open bidding of BCL assets as many have been made to believe for the past month, it appears the highest bidder is the Emirates and it is a done deal”
However the unclear undertakings surrounding the BCL disposal have raised eyebrows. Former Minister of Education and Botswana Ambassador to Japan, Jacob Nkate is of the view that selling of BCL assets should have been made a public knowledge, “The Minister responsible should be repeatedly reporting to parliament, to at least put the public and leaders to terms with events surrounding their assets selling,” he said. However not disputing the selling of the company to private investors, Nkate argues that some Batswana and local entities would have been better placed to pop out a stake towards reopening of the mine.
Meanwhile Minister Kebonang, who is in charge of breathing new life to the former copper nickel giant told WeekendPost that the emergency of the matter to strike a deal with the Emirates was of paramount importance before they moved to a different country. “A statement will be delivered to parliament once a direction is clear as to where the investment undertaking is going, we need Batswana’s support, let’s stay away from politics, we are looking at creating jobs here,” he said.
Meanwhile, some in Phikwe are optimistic about the possibility of the mine reopening, regardless of who the new owner is. “BCL sustained Phikwe’s economy and we really don’t care who opens it, whether it’s Motsepe the rich South African who owns Mamelodi Soundowns or the President’s friend, le one maArabea a siame (even the Arabs are fine), we just want our mine to open so as we have business,” said Philip Ngwenya, a taxi man who also hails from the SPEDU region in Bobonong.
Some Phikwe residents however expressed worry that the Arabs might come with their own labour and huge machinery hence few jobs for Phikwe locals. “The other question is will we get our jobs back?, kana manong a ja ka losika (blood is thicker than water) the Arabs are known for keeping it within the family and empowering their own,” a former BCL miner said.
Delayed implementation of revitalization projects Last year November at the commemoration of African Industrialization Day Government through Ministry of Investment, Trade& Industry unveiled the Selibe Phikwe Economic Revitalization Strategy to be implemented under the coordination of former Bank of Botswana Governor Linah Mhohlo with the first quarter of implementation expected to be evident March 1 2017, however some Selibe Phikwe Councillors have decried that the promise is yet to be delivered.
Councillor Sethulwa questioned the Mayor about the promised employment opportunities “Your Worship isn’t this the time we should be seeing job adverts and our youth queuing up since we were told that by March over 2000 jobs would be created ?” Earlier this year Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Nonofo Molefhi who is also Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe East told residents in one of his Kgotla meetings that Phikwe locals especially the youth should prepare their C.Vs for over 2000 jobs geared up for the first payout at the end of March 2017.
Councillor Evelyn Kgodungwe advised the authorities to engage residents and communities more to come up with inclusive ideas that are tailored for them. “We only hear of seminars and hear say about these investors, this projects, initiatives and all, whereas our people are not consulted and engaged further in revitalization undertakings.”
According to Phikwe residents and SPTC Council members it was important for even Mhohlo to have an office in Selibe Phikwe and engage residents, the business community on daily bases to get first hand information on the region’s economic issues.
Poor sanitation and drainage system Selibe Phikwe Councillors are aggrieved by the state of the town’s sanitation and the poor drainage system and say it will hinder efforts to turn the town and region into an investment attractive parameter. Speaking at a full council meeting this past week responding to Mayor Amogelang Mojuta’s address, Councillor Moses Serite of Sesame-Kagiso ward in Distance Township told the council that bad smell caused by drain spills will scare away potential investors.
“When rich people come here to scout for investment opportunities, one drive around town will scare them off because there is a disgusting smell, drainage spills, running waste water and generally poor sanitation in town,” he said adding that the situation would even chase away the Arabians. “Even the wealthy Arabians were about on newspapers will run for their health if the status quo is not changed,” he added.
The full council pleaded that a significant skate from the money allocated to Selibe Phikwe Town Council in the 2017/18 budget be allotted to fixing the town’s sanitation infrastructure and drainage network to ready the town for investors. “ It will be of no use for government to draw up an investment attraction blueprint that entails incentives under the Special Economic Zones initiative at the same time leaving the town in this state,’’ councillors told WeekendPost on Monday after the session
More trouble at Pula Steel Information reaching this publication indicates that Pula Steel Casting & Manufacturing, Botswana’s only steel manufacturing entity, is on its last legs. Currently, government financial lender Citizen Entrepreneurship Agency (CEDA) which is expected to inject capital of over 20 million pula to resuscitate Pula Steel, the brain child of BCL Polaris II and the Verma Family is thinking otherwise. Reports indicate that the Thabo Thamane led agency is objecting to pumping more money into the company under the leadership of Verma who on the other side declined giving up the company’s stewardship.
It is understood that CEDA is gearing up for an application to put Pula Steel under judicial management , although information is still sketchy, this publication was tipped off that Thamane has already put his signature to the paperwork that will be presented to Gaborone high court in a week’s time. Pula Steel, as a project put up to diversify the economy of Selibe Phikwe from mining has faced challenges since its inception and is currently being troubled by creditors who want their millions from the indebted entity.
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.