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Chinese diplomats against deportations

Chinese diplomats feel citizens of China are treated unfairly

The Chinese deputy ambassador to Botswana, Nan Li is convinced that citizens of his country want to invest in Botswana but they are restrained by unfair immigration laws. In a cautious statement this week, Li is certain that Botswana and China still have a lot to share going forward, but a few gaps need to be closed.


The Chinese diplomat defended the deficient long- term Chinese investment by Chinese enterprises operating in Botswana citing the country’s austere immigration laws and the country’s erratic deportation trend.


The solemn-faced Chinese emissary quashed off the popular anti-Chinese sentiment that has portrayed them in the light of rabid neo-colonialism emanating from their profit and dividend repatriation. He said from about two years ago the Chinese have been increasingly declared persona non grata for minor offences and sometimes handed out double punishment.


Li highlighted a recent case that baffled the embassy lawyers where a Chinese national was deported for a ‘minor offence’ of illegal fishing he committed two years ago and had already paid a fine for. He said the case was an extremely stringent justice for a minor offence and did not warrant deportation.


The Chinese diplomat went on to question why the Chinese national was not deported two years ago at the time he committed the said offence.


In a subject that could smack of lagging collaboration between the Chinese embassy and the local law enforcement authorities, the emissary categorically denied the involvement of his people in criminal activities saying that “dissimilar to popular belief that the Chinese are involved in criminal conduct a good majority of my people are decent expatriates operating under the confines of the law.”

He added that he has never been told or noticed of anything untoward by his people.


The Chinese emissary said that under the new immigration law passed in 2013 that allows for instantaneous, arbitral and unilateral deportation, “it has become difficult for the Chinese to manage their lives here.”


He continued saying that this law, coupled with stringent and unpredictable ways of the immigration department where the number of years of residence in Botswana have seemingly been reduced from five to three and two years is disruptive to the lives of families of the Chinese, their businesses and investments, stopping short of labelling it counter-productive.


Li went on to say that the Chinese do not feel secure, “They face difficulties in visa renewals even if they have been in the country for 5 or 20 years”.


According to Section 48 of the Immigration Act (1), “a person shall not have the right to be heard before or after a decision is made by the President in relation to that person under this Act.”

Subsection (2) goes on to say,  “a person affected by any decision made under subsection (1) shall not have the right to demand any information as to the grounds of such decision nor shall any such information be disclosed in any court.”

Meanwhile, President Ian Khama has in the past expressed displeasure at the shoddy workmanship of Chinese companies notably telling a South African publication that the country has had very bad experiences with Chinese companies, triggering a strongly worded Chinese response expressing dissatisfaction at his use of counter-diplomatic channels to air his grievances.

BOTSWANA AND CHINA ENJOY CORDIAL RELATIONS
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation recently released a statement indicating that there is no tension in the diplomatic relations between the Governments of the Republic of Botswana and the People’s Republic of China. The Ministry spokesperson said relations between the two countries remain excellent and mutually beneficial.


“The recent visit to China by Hon. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi was at the invitation of the Chinese Foreign Minister Mr. Wang Yi and it was intended to further strengthen and deepen the existing bonds of friendship between Botswana and China,” reads the statement.


The visit afforded the two Ministers an invaluable opportunity to discuss issues of bilateral, regional and global nature, and the discussions were held under an atmosphere characterized by mutual trust and respect.


“China which is now the third (3rd) largest trade partner of Botswana and the second largest consumer of Botswana diamonds, is of strategic importance to Botswana as it has a lot of potential opportunities that Botswana can exploit to drive her development agenda, such as, trade, foreign direct investment (FDI), and development assistance, to mention but a few.”  


According to the release, Minister Venson-Moitoi also had the opportunity to pay a courtesy call on the Chinese Vice President Mr. Li Yuanchao who pledged the People’s Republic of China’s support towards Botswana’s development agenda.


ECONOMIC AND TRADE RELATIONS
Economic and trade relations between China and Botswana have so far developed steadily and achieved satisfactory results, which may fall into the following categories, Li is of the view. However poor workmanship on some government projects across Botswana have soured relations at trade level. The Morupule B Power Plant is the sticky point.  


While the growth of trade volume has made headway and enjoys further space of improvement, Botswana officials are irked by persistent Chinese poor workmanship on projects. The trade volume between China and Botswana in 2006 reached US $ 62 million. In the first half of 2007, this number reached US $ 47 million.

Though there is trade imbalance, Botswana was not concerned with it, relations were stable until the advent of Morupule B, and other projects. Botswana ranks first in diamond production by value and China has turned out to be the largest diamond consumer in Asia, with a domestic purchase of US $ 2.5 billion and an import of US $ 1.66 billion of luxurious diamond in 2004, this is a good trade statistics for Botswana.

Although there exists no direct transaction of diamond between China and Botswana, it can be assumed that significant part of the diamond exported to China should originate in Botswana. Expectedly, China's continued high demand for diamond and other mineral resources will maintain a favourable price in the world market, which means good news for diamond and mining sector of Botswana.


Chinese wholesale and retail business has benefited local market, most Batswana have benefited from Chinese goods. Some Chinese nationals are active in running businesses of garment, footwear, baggage, household apparatus, light-industrial product, food, motors and many more.

But recently government of Botswana is pushing the Reservation Policy to ensure that citizens participate actively in the clothing industry. Foreigners are compelled to partner with citizens if they are to be allowed to operate such businesses.

Botswana used to have stores, shops and supermarkets merely based in urban area, and rarely did people in rural areas have access to this kind of services, the Chinese people have penetrated the rural market, setting up shops in far areas. Pundits believe Botswana-China relations can still be nurtured so that it remains beneficial to both countries.

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GCC expensive taste reaches courts

9th March 2021

There is uproar and confusion at Gaborone City Council (GCC) caused by the municipality’s decision to reject cheaper bids and instead award a contract of Asphalt overlay, resealing and road marking works of 10km in Gaborone to a more expensive contractor.

The tender was posted on December 8th last year with TRI VENTURES (PTY) LTD awarded the tender after being the best evaluated bidder. The company, to do the job, quoted P14 707 454.78 as the total bid price and P12 501 336.56 as the total contract price of the award.

The awarding of the job to this company has rubbed other bidders the wrong way and even suspecting the tender adjudicating body of having hidden interests. The arguments from the tenderpreneurs is that the common methodology for awarding the jobs is always hinged on the least expensive taking the job. This, they support further by saying the government has been decrying lack of funds but GCC continues to splash the funds without being logical and prudent.

From the tendering companies, a number of them were below TRI VENTURES’ quote. Trench Plant Hire quoted P12 million, with Costain Services praying for P13 million, Conconet PTY LTD asked for P12,9 million and Clanfield PTY LTD also quoted P12.9 million for the 10 km job in the capital city.

The latter, Clanfield PTY LTD which according to CIPA records is owned by Tlholego Ntebele, approached High Court this week Thursday seeking interdict which will pave way for the review of the tender. The company had initially filed an appeal and the Appeals Board dismissed it.

“In this regard you are hereby informed that, if you are aggrieved by the decision by the Appeals Board you may seek remedy from the high court in accordance with section 24(6) of the LAPAD act,” appeal dismissal letter read. The Appeals Board’s main contention was that the company quoted the money which is lower than the council minimum cut off point of P14 511 798 76.

In their heads of argument at the court, the company through their attorneys argued that by being inexpensive, it was enough to grant them the job. In fact they argued that the winning bid of TRI VENTURE owned by Lebogang Dikole reached the GCC budget ceiling and therefore Clanfield Pty Ltd were the best placed to be awarded.

The request for the interdict was nonetheless dismissed by Justice Radijeng but the company is still adamant that they will appeal. Delivering the speech on Legal year, Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane implored the courts to adjudicate on urgency basis matters of tenders as they stall progress on national developments.

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New infrastructure funding models for Africa

9th March 2021
New-infrastructure

The African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), which came into effect at the beginning of 2021 with a market of 1.2 billion and combined GDP of $3 trillion, could contribute $76 billion to the world economy, according to World Bank.

To harness this potential, African countries would have to address the infrastructural challenge — which means dishing out or augmenting existing infrastructure funding models in favour of new funding models. ACFTA — the biggest trade agreement since World Trade Organization — fundamentally seeks to scrap out tariffs in 90 percent of goods, subsequently improving trade by at least 15 percent by 2024.

However, trade between African countries will most likely to be hampered by lack of adequate infrastructure key in facilitating business. Africa, particularly the Sub-Saharan region has been grappling with the question of funding its infrastructure, and lags behind other regions in the world in meeting infrastructural needs.

As highlighted by African Development Bank in its 2018 economic outlook, one of the key factors retarding industrialization has been the insufficient stock of productive infrastructure in power, water, and transport services that would allow firms to thrive in industries with strong comparative advantages.

The continent’s infrastructure needs an amount of $130–170 billion a year, with a financing gap in the range $68–$108 billion, according to African Development Bank.  Africa’s infrastructure deficiency is well-documented, and has been subject of interrogation by development partners for decades.

The Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic, produced by World Bank in 2010, collected comprehensive data on the infrastructure sectors in Africa—covering power, transport, irrigation, water and sanitation, and information and communication technology (ICT) as well as providing an integrated analysis of the challenges they face.

While the report noted that infrastructure has been responsible for more than half of Africa’s improving growth performance and has the potential to contribute even more in the future, it also discovered that Africa’s infrastructure networks increasingly lags behind those of other developing countries and are characterized by missing regional links and stagnant household access.

These deficiencies, cause African firms to suffer production costs, therefore making goods not only expensive but also lowering competition in the economy to the consumer’s disadvantage. African countries continues to fare badly in the annual Global Competitiveness Report — published by World Economic Forum — in the infrastructure pillar, with only South Africa being an exception in Sub-Saharan Africa, though still having power problems.

The infrastructure pillar looks at the quality and extension of transport infrastructure (road, rail, water and air) and utility infrastructure. This is so because better-connected geographic areas have generally been more prosperous and well-developed infrastructure lowers transportation and transaction costs, and facilitates the movement of goods and people and the transfer of information within a country and across borders.

It also ensures access to power and water—both necessary conditions for modern economic activity. Power is listed among Africa’s biggest infrastructure challenge, with 30 countries facing regular power shortages and many paying high premiums for emergency power, according to World Bank which indicated that to address Africa’s infrastructure needs it will cost around $93 billion a year, but African Development Bank puts the figure at $130–170 billion a year, after its recent study.

The infrastructure challenge cut across all countries, from fragile economies to resource-rich countries such as Botswana mainly because a large share of Africa’s infrastructure is domestically financed, with the central government budget being the main driver of infrastructure investment.

In 2017, Head of South African Development Community (SADC) Public Private Partnership (PPP) Network, Kogan Pillay warned that Africa will go into recession in the next 10 years if the continent does not adequately invest in its infrastructural needs.

Pillay, who has vast experience in the implementation of PPPs and has previously worked for the South African government, is of the view that Africa’s big investors will shun the continent because of lack of infrastructure necessary for doing business.

“World Bank has warned about this happening,” he said at a workshop organised by Ministry of Finance in Botswana. “Africa would not attract FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) because nobody would want to do business in a country which does not have infrastructure. It makes doing business difficult,” Pillay stated.

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Russian billionaire takes centre stage in Masisi, Geingob P3billion project

9th March 2021

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi could find himself ensnared in controversy, as contentious Russian billionaire, Rashid Sardarov this week emerged as the likely investor in the water desalination worth approximately P3 billion.

News of a possible water desalination project resurfaced after President Mokgweetsi Masisi made his second State visit to Namibian counterpart President Hage Geingob in a space of less than a month.  President Masisi and his entourage travelled to Namibia to explore the possibility of collaborating on a water project, according to government officials.

Reports in Namibia indicate that talks are already underway with Geingob and an investor who is offering desalination water from the Atlantic Ocean.  “Being a good neighbour and alive to Botswana’s water challenges, Geingob invited him to come and meet the investor to share thoughts on the project”, Masisi announced on his official social media pages.

“We are happy with the prospects because we need the water. However, our ministers and technocrats have to determine what is best for us bearing in mind our governance procedures,” Masisi wrote. Tautona Times, an Office of the President (OP) publication, reports that funds and other technical considerations permitting Botswana to partner with Namibia in a water desalination project which could address the current water shortages that the two countries are facing are being sourced.

Namibia has been working on a project to treat water from the Atlantic Ocean and use it for drinking purposes. Last Thursday, an investor willing to embark on the project made a presentation on the prospects of this mega project to the two Heads of State and their Ministers and officials in Windhoek. The project is expected to take five years to complete.

Botswana however is still part of Botswana- Lesotho water transfer project. The L-BWT scheme will supply water to Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa from the Makhaleng Dam – part of the Lesotho Lowlands Water Supply Scheme – through a 700 km water conveyance pipeline from Lesotho, through South Africa, to Botswana.

In August 2018, Botswana was tasked with an investment request of €3.42 million grant funding for outstanding feasibility studies related to the dam and conveyancing pipeline. “We are still part of the Lesotho- Botswana water transfer project where Botswana was tasked by the three countries to approach the African Development Bank to fund the feasibility study which they did and it’s been done. The technical team for the three countries even toured the pipeline site to determine what’s on the way which may require moving”, said impeccable sources.

After the trip, Tautona Times reported that an investor who was willing to embark on the project made a presentation on the prospects of this mega project to the two Presidents and their Ministers and officials in Windhoek. The project is expected to take five years to complete. The said investor is Rashid Sardarov, according to the Namibian press.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalist (ICIJ) Panama Papers have linked Russian billionaire and Namibian land baron, Rashid Sardarov, to a number of unscrupulous offshore companies. Sardarov, who is believed to be a person of interest between the two Heads of State, owns large tracts of land in Namibia, and is a long-term client of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers data leak, which was obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

ICIJ reports that absentee landlord Sardarov is a 60-year-old flamboyant Russian oligarch with an interest in energy businesses, property, aviation, hospitality and wildlife hunting.  In 2013 he bought several farms in Namibia, measuring 28,000 hectares (the equivalent of about 34,000 football fields), through his Switzerland-based company, Comsar Properties SA. Sardarov also apparently intends to build a game ranch 70 km outside Namibia’s capital city of Windhoek.

One of the main purposes of creating an offshore company is to hide the names of the real owners. Even though creating these kind of companies is not illegal, the Panama Papers once again showed that some of these shell companies, masked in secrecy provide cover for dictators, politicians and tax evaders.

Rashid Sardarov is unapologetic about his riches, and was quoted by the Centre for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo as saying: “I’ve been a billionaire for years, and I’m not ashamed to say so”. He received Bosnian citizenship in 2011 because he was a major investor there.

In addition to his 2013 land purchases in Namibia, at the end of 2014, Sardarov wanted to buy an additional 18,000 hectares of land for expansion. It is not yet clear whether Sardarov acquired the extra land he wanted. But he is building a state-of-the-art game ranch, Marula Game Lodge, in the region.

Botswana and Namibia recently signed a Bi- National Commission and the two Heads of State emphasized the unique responsibility they have to their nations. They agreed to constantly engage each other in communication and other ventures that will yield benefits to the people of the two countries. President Masisi and Geingob acknowledged the common challenges that Botswana and Namibia have adding that the time for working in silos is over.

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