Former Bank of Botswana Governor, Ms Linah Mohohlo who was recently appointed Coordinator of the Selibe Phikwe Revitalization Project has vowed that she has the acumen to indulge Bill Gates to inject hope back to Selibe Phikwe, should the need arise.
Mohohlo was unveiled during the African Industrialization Day commemorations on Tuesday in Selibe Phikwe by the Minister Investment Trade & Industry, Vincent Seretse. The Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry’s Phikwe Economic Revitalization Strategy (ERS) coordinated by former Bank of Botswana Governor, was also unveiled during the commemorations.
According to the strategy, precisely 6 856 jobs will be created in the next 24 months in Selibi Phikwe, WeekendPost has learnt. The jobs, it was revealed on Tuesday in the distressed town, will be a result of a P1.8 billion worth of 20 specific businesses that are to set up shop in eastern town.
SHOCK ABSORBING INTERVATIONS The liquidation of BCL mine resulted in 4000 miners losing their jobs three weeks ago, and Government as a result has put in place short term remise to ease the effects of the job losses on the former miners. P11 million has been set aside for one full year to pay school fees for children of former BCL employees, Minister of Investment Trade & Industry (MITI) Vincent Seretse revealed on Tuesday.
According to Seretse, the Ministry of Basic Education (MBE) has been mandated with facilitating the undertaking, “Government has committed to continue paying school fees for children of former BCL employees for one year, that is 2017, The office of the Coordinator, District Commissioner and MBE are already working out details to implement this decision,’’ he said.
The Minister further noted that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has taken over medical expenses which were borne by BCL of which the estimated cost is about P15 million. “For Social Support and counselling services government will ensure availability of senior level officers in Selibe Phikwe to assist former BCL employees,” concluded Seretse.
For their part government investment arm, the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) told attendants that all BCL direct contractors who borrowed capital from the agency will be exempted from paying monthly instalments for a period until liquidation process is completed next year. “In our efforts to keep our funded businesses which depended on BCL to keep surviving, we will give them a period of four months from now without compulsory payment of our agreed monthly instalments,’’ explained CEDA Chief Executive Officer, Thabo Thamane, who also conceded that this decision would negatively affect them.
According to the government subsidized lender, talks are at a final stage with Botswana’s largest private sector employer, Debswana to absorb some of the companies that are in line with its business. “Debswana has showed willingness to contract some of our funded companies who did business with BCL at their Jwaneng and Orapa mines. This will go a long way in ensuring their survival and consequently paying back the loaned capital in order for us (CEDA) to re-invest here in Phikwe,’’ he said.
THE REVITALISATION STRATEGY Speaking to the Strategy, Minister Seretse said it will run for two years and it includes projects categorized into agricultural production and processing, tourism and related services as well as manufacturing. “At least 20 specific projects at an estimated cost of P1.8 billion pula will be implemented over a period of 24 months creating 6856 jobs,’’ he indicated.
Seretse further noted that to equip and resource that strategy and ease of doing business, government investment and trade experts, Botswana Investment & Trade Centre (BITC) has deployed Director –Export Promotion and has since arrived in Phikwe as of last week. For her part, the Permanent Secretary at MITI, Ms Peggy Serame said that projects that are to be used to bring Selibe Phikwe to economic life include, revival of the textile industry which is expected to hire over 2000 people during the first quarter of 2017; renewable power generation; assembling of components including vehicle parts; equipment and machinery manufacturing which are all expected to hire thousands of people.
“We are hoping there will be success this time around for the textile industry, we also expect a number of citizen owned ICT businesses to set up their assembly plants here,’’ she said. Serame hinted that citizen owned companies; Almaz (PTY) LTD and Ditec Mobile would be setting up assembly plants in Phikwe.
RIGOROUS INDUSTRIALIZATION Ditec Founder and Chief Executive, Justice Williams told this publication that his team of technicians are already in Selibe Phikwe to conclude logistics prior to commencement of the process of relocating to the town. “We have already identified a warehouse and for a period from now until first quarter of 2017 we will be redesigning the warehouse into a world-class ICT lab that produces high technological devices,” he said.
“We are looking at employing about 200 people at the 1st phase of actually manufacturing and engineering the technology smart components and phase 2 which includes programming of the components which will probably require an extra 300 personnel.” Consequently, according to Williams, Ditec will employ at least 2000 people.
For their part, newly launched citizen owned Microsoft computer producer, Almaz told WeekendPost that they are still in talks with the government regarding issues of logistics and warehouse and tax incentives. “Our setup of business here depends on the outcome of our discussions with the Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry,’’ said Louis Sibanda, an Executive at Almaz.
Sibanda further said after finalization of talks with the government, setting up a plant in Selibe Phikwe would take 37 days and employing just over 100 employees at first production. “We will re-skill and retool our employees, that is to say former miners from BCL without or with little knowledge of computer and software engineering will be put to training to capacitate them hence they will be not left out as far as working for us is concerned.”
The Mayor of Selibe Phikwe, Amogelang Mojuta expressed delight at the developments and also revealed that his office is facilitating a multimillion pula investment which will create more jobs in Phikwe. “Just last week I was with some South African gentlemen who want to open an aviation school here. They also want to upgrade the airport to international standards and further venture into distribution of goods and services into other parts of the southern Africa region.’’
686 MILLION PULA FOR SPEDU Of the P1.8 billion worth of business to be injected into Phikwe, Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU)’s treasury will account for over 600 million pula, courtesy of European Union’s re-employment fund, permanent secretary, Serame revealed. This is in spite of commotion prevailing at the diversification vehicle, just last week; it lost its Communications & Corporate Affairs Manager Punah Molebatsi who resigned out of the blue. WeekendPost has it on good authority that the Human Resource manager has been suspended and will possibly be axed.
However the newly branded and revived SPEDU is not just about talk, Chief Executive Dr Mokubung Mokubung revealed to this publication. “Now we are no longer about economic diversification, we are transforming Selibe Phikwe into a major industrial city in Southern Africa, with value chain business opportunities and diverse nature of businesses , next week we will be groundbreaking the electrification of yet more farms in Bobonong,’’ he said.
Information gathered by this publication further suggests that SPEDU is working on a possible partnership with Barclays Bank of Botswana, who early this year loaned BCL 1 billion Pula on government guarantee. Sources present at a meeting between SPEDU executives and Barclays Bank Managing Director, Reinette Van de Merwe revealed that the multibillion pula private lender is committed to injecting more money into Selibe Phikwe as they are prepared to finance serious and viable projects.
“Yes we met Barclays Bank officials, but I’m not in a position to disclose anything as we are still doing paperwork to quantify how much partnership we are talking about and we will inform the public in due time,’’ said Mokubung.
THE OFFICE OF THE COORDINATOR President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama’s recent appointee, former Governor Bank of Botswana Linah Mohohlo was finally introduced to the Selibe Phikwe residents and the business community on the same day by Minister Seretse. Seretse explained that Mhohlo will be overseeing the implementation of the SPEDU Revitalization Strategy and its communication plan. “I am certain in the coming month she will have specific engagements with the various stakeholders in the region.’’
For her part Mohohlo noted that her job will depend entirely on the cooperation and collective efforts from the Phikwe residents, business community and all stakeholders. According to Mohohlo, Selibe Phikwe has the potential to create more than 7000 jobs. “We can go as far as bringing world’s richest here. I have the acumen to indulge Bill Gates and his schedule permitting, he is very active on issues of injecting hope to lost parameters,’’ she said.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.