The Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) launched its new brand, logo and corporate slogan amid promises of thousands of jobs spanning the agriculture, tourism and manufacturing sectors.
At a high profile corporate event at the newly opened Hotel Selibe graced by political leaders, captains of industries amongst others CEDA Chief Executive Officer Mr. Thabo Thamane, BITC Executive Director for Strategy & Competitiveness, Mr. K Olebile who also seats in the SPEDU board, BCL top brass lead by Managing Director, Dan Mahupela who also chairs the SPEDU board, community leadership and other high profile senior government officials, the officials asserted that they are not just all about talk – jobs are coming.
SPEDU is a parastatal company wholly owned by the government established in 2007 to diversify the economy of Selibe Phikwe and the surrounding areas by diversifying the area’s economy away from mining.
When giving background and introduction of brand strategy SPEDU Chief Executive Dr Mokubung N Mokubung explained that the decision to rebrand SPEDU was influenced by the imperative need for his organization to keep up with corporate transformation and provide easy interaction with its clients.
Said Dr Mokubung: “Our corporate identity has to provide a first sight economic & investment attractive picture that expresses togetherness of all stakeholders with a vibrant color spectrum.”
Dr Mokubung emphasized that people expect a lot from SPEDU hence the move to update their corporate image in order to profile Selibe Phikwe as a premier sight for innovative and high technology companies which would translate into thousands of job creation.
Delivering the Keynote speech, SPEDU chairman, Mr Dan Mahupela who also seats at the helm of BCL Limited outlined some of the developments in the region and gave a positive future economic outlook.
Pointing out the National Agro Processing Plant, Mahupela explained that a horticultural study conducted in 2013 revealed great potential for the SPEDU region in food production credit to abundant water supply and fertile soil.
He added that SPEDU is facilitating the upgrading of the Selibe Phikwe airstrip to a fully flashed airport with improved flight aviation terminal and waiting hall. “As the SPEDU chairman I am pleased to announce that soon I will be able to fly with my CEO from Phikwe straight to Gaborone and from Phikwe Straight to Johannesburg,” said Mahupela.
The airport together with the Platjan bridge whose construction is expected to commence in two months’ time will make travelling easy for potential investors and business people also enhancing tourism efficiency,” explained the Chairman.
Speaking in an interview with Weekend Post SPEDU Executive, Ms Punah Molebatsi explained that the new logo and brand represent a joint collective effort of all stakeholders in transforming and diversifying the Phikwe region.
Said Molebatsi: “the old logo represented what we wanted to do as SPEDU, our intended strategic framework, but the new brand represents what we are doing, the ongoing projects and strategic undertakings that underway.”
She revealed to this publication that the town will soon receive a pharmaceutical factory and medicine park which will create thousands of jobs for the Phikwe and surrounding areas.
Molebatsi also indicated that a high standard shopping mall is also in the pipeline and the development is expected to give the Selibe Phikwe town a new phase lift and transform the region into an economic and investment hub.
Furthermore another project is underway to develop a 42 kilometer electrical line which will power 44 horticultural fields with an estimated land space of 800-1000 hectares along the Motloutse river basin, Mr Jazenga Uezesa SPEDU Director of Strategic projects revealed to Weekend Post.
The project, which is expected to be completed in December this year is financed by the European Union and it is undertaken in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Botswana Power Corporation (BPC).
Said Uezesa: “We have not quantified how much this project would contribute to the reduction of Botswana‘s import bill, but we are optimistic the project will enhance large scale horticultural production and help archive much needed food security.
Uezesa also added that SPEDU has an obligation to turn the region into the bread basket of Botswana.
Profiling the tourism potential in the region, the Strategic Project Director revealed to that SPEDU in partnership with Botswana Tourism Organization is in the process of developing a framework to enhance tourism efficiency in the region.
Uezesa said they are working hard to profile and market the SPEDU region as a tourism destination, because of three dams, being Letsibogo, Dikgathong and Thune. He said water tourism is one of the main tourism undertakings they are targeting.
“We will be cautious of environmental factors and sensitiveness of the water because the main aim of the dams is to supply the whole nation with water.”
The Strategic Project Director also revealed that his office is in the process of developing SPEDU tourism regional corridor which will provide information about attractive sites and promote value chain business opportunities.
Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.
Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.
She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”
Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.
On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.
“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.
One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.
The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”
The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.
Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.
Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.
Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.
This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.
He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.
Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”
He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.
Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.
“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.
In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”
In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.
He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.” Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.
Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.
He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”
Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.
“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.
“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said. Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.
Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.