Botswana’s private sector lobby group, Business Botswana, has practically thrown all the advocacy weight behind the idea of relocating Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST)’s Departments of Mining and Geology from Palapye to Selibe Phikwe.
The private Sector federation has welcomed the suggested move saying that it would first and foremost go a long way in turning around the economy of Selibe Phikwe and surrounding areas. Business Botswana Vice President, Palalani Moithobogi told WeekendPost in a previous interview that BIUST is a partner to the private sector as a research, innovation and ground breaking solution seeking institution.
Moithobogi had observed that Phikwe has all necessary equipment to establish a department of geology and Mining or a fully fleshed college of engineering campus. Moithobogi’s view was that, the campus would complement the revitalization efforts in Phikwe as well as government’s mission of turning Botswana into a knowledge based economy.
Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament, Dithapelo Keorapetse had tabled the motion in parliament a fortnight ago. In the motion debated in parliament on the 10th of March, Keorapetse had asked Parliament to request government to relocate BIUST Mining and Geology academic services to Selibe Phikwe with a satellite engineering campus established in Phikwe. Keorapetse had argued that the relocation would develop Selibe Phikwe into an innovation and research academic centre, a move he added would undoubtedly go a long way in turning around the economy of Selibe Phikwe and the entire SPEDU region.
“Mr Speaker, when you go to other countries, I will give two examples from South Africa. When you take the town of Stellenbosch, the mainstay of the economy of the town of Stellenbosch is Stellenbosch University. So the university is very important in breathing economic life to the town of say Stellenbosch, when you go to Grahams town, there is Rhodes University,” he said
”Mr Speaker, another practice when you go to other countries is that you can have a university headquartered in a city or a town and then have faculties or schools or departments relocated in the neighbouring towns, When you look at the distance of Palapye and Selebi Phikwe, it is around plus 100 kilometres. It is very possible that we can relocate the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering of the College of Engineering and Technology at BIUST from Palapye to Selebi Phikwe to establish a BIUST Selebi Phikwe Campus,” he explained to parliament.
Keorapetse observed that for purposes of practicals, the BCL Mine would come in handy. “It will be even more appropriate if the mine is re- opened with either private investors partnering with Government or whatever the case may be, It will be even more appropriate if the mine is running,” he said.
Business Botswana strongly accedes to this view: “Before the liquidation, there were apprentices who did their practicals for various disciplines at Selebi Phikwe Technical College at the BCL Mine. So I think that when you go to a country like France, to prevent what formerly was mining towns from becoming ghost towns, those places which were mined were turned into museums and they also offered practical’s for disciplines in mining related science and engineering programmes.”
Business Botswana who noted that their interests in the issue are business facilitation and concept commercializing anchored, are of the view that entrepreneurship and other private sector led economic activities can emerge simultaneously form such a development. “ We are looking at long term SPEDU region economic transformation, thus when an institution of the magnitude of a university campus is built here, the Small, Medium Enterprises will flourish, accommodation rentals, transport; the economic activities unearthed as a result are very obvious and clear even to lame man,” said Moithobogi.
In an interview this week, Keorapetse further told WeekendPost that the move will be a long term complementation to Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry Phikwe Revitalization Efforts towards fulfilling the aspiration of making sure that Selibe Phikwe does not become a ghost town.
It will be costly for government
However the move has received mixed reactions from the legislators, Minister of Tertiary Education, Research and Technology, Mr Alfred Madigele aggrieved that the undertaking would be costly to his ministry. “The proposal to relocate the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering to Selebi Phikwe from BIUST in Palapye is not plausible as it will come at a huge cost to the Government of Botswana. It will be tantamount to building another BUIST in Selebi Phikwe,” he said. He further argued that BIUST’s academic service delivery will be negatively affected.
“Detaching and relocating the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering to Selebi Phikwe will cost daunting logistical and operational difficulties for both the students and the staff, in particular there is the need for comprehensive library facilities and resources as well as teaching laboratories which we all believe are an integral part of the education process and cannot be over-emphasized,” he said.
Madigele noted that various departments and colleges at BIUST share common resources, from sharing common facilities like lecturers, professors, laboratories, libraries to other administrative and logistical facilities. “By the current structure which is currently being used at BIUST, year ones and year twos in the College of Engineering and Technology have to take common courses like Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Statistics like their counterparts in the College of Information and Communications Technology; that is the first and second year students, ” he noted and further stated that the departments of Mining and Geological Engineering offered programs which comprise common courses offered by the three (3) colleges at BIUST and use the same laboratories, using the same workshop facilities like others in the three colleges.
Government to consider the move in future
Meanwhile, Business Botswana believes that the cost can be overlapped by coming up with an arrangement that allows for partnership in setting up the campus: “The government doesn’t have to bear the costs alone, when you look at the research labs, innovation packs, the BCL metallurgy and mechanical workshops, they can be run independently by private sector businesses and BUIST would just have to devise a partnership model.”
According to Business Botswana, the campus arrangement, especially support services like accommodation for lectures, university staff as well as other institution sectors like business facilities, can be developed by private sector or other government parastatals like Botswana Innovation Hub and BITRI just to name a few.
Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South, Ndaba Gaolathe, was among those who supported the move to have the BIUST campus relocated to Phikwe. According to him, the development would also enhance learning at BIUST and turn the institution into a world-class research and innovation academic institution.
“Thank you Honourable Member of Parliament Keorapetse, for a motion that I think is worth considering. If you look at the tradition of universities, the tradition of academic rigor, the tradition of intellectual pursuit, you will find that universities that have been successful around the world, that have contributed profoundly to the body of knowledge are universities that have multiple campuses,” Gaolathe said.
He observed that the move would provide yet another opportunity not only for BIUST, but for Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI), both of which fall under Minister Madigele’s portfolio. Parliament ended up amending the motion to move from the house requesting government to relocate the campus from Palapye to Phikwe and settled for “Government to consider the relocation in future.” Member of Parliament for Nata-Gweta Polson Majaga moved the amendment.
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.