Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) Managing Director, Bashi Gaetsaloe’s drive to push the Corporation to profitability and eliminate unworthy investments may come down hard on small investors in the BDC portfolio.
Government’s investment arm is said to be on mission to push out its partnering company at Talana Farms with the view of establishing new partnership with a new partner who has financial muscle.
WeekendPost has been availed with information indicating that Botalana Farms, which jointly operates Talana Farms with BDC has had a troublesome relationship with BDC as the horticultural project continues to struggle. Despite the project showing a promising sign, heavy rains in the past few years soured the relationship between BDC and Botalana Ventures, as the farm suffered financial difficulties.
BDC has been operating Talana Farms jointly with Botalana Ventures since 2006 and the two entities had enjoyed what looked like a breakthrough for Botswana’s horticultural produce sufficiency. Talana Farms’ General Manager, Jan Willemse, revealed in the past that for future growth the farm was targeting the South African and Namibian market for their produce.
The bone of contention however in the last few years has been the BDC’s unwillingness to put more capital into the project to increase production and even rescue the business from unforeseen fates like the floods which occasionally destroy crops and other produce.
Close sources at BDC have revealed to this publication that, occasionally when BDC puts in capital to rescue the project, it demands Botalana Ventures, as its partner to repay part of what it put towards the projects, regardless of whether the farm recovered the money or not. But observers say as business, BDC has every right to make such demands because it has invested.
Sources also revealed that in the last few years, BDC has been sceptical about pumping more money into the project, and if it offers incentive, it does so with “unrealistic demands” on the conditions put on offer.
Informants inside BDC indicate that, the government owned entity holds the view that it has not benefited from the partnership, as it is forced to pump money onto projects, while the farm is struggling to raise the money.
In April 2014, BDC announced the appointment of Bashi Gaetsaloe as the new Managing Director, taking over from Maria Nthebolan, who had resigned a year earlier. The appointment of the new Managing Director saw BDC adopting transformations under the new BDC business model which places more focus on minimizing risks. The arrival of Gaetsaloe has however not changed the perception of the corporation towards the feasibility of Talana Farms under the current partnership.
According to sources, the major concern with regard to Talana Farms’ produce is inability to sell in Botswana as local retailers prefers cheaper produce from neighbouring South Africa which are not necessarily of good quality when compared to Talana Farms produce. Retailers are the biggest buyers of horticultural produce in Botswana.
This publication has also been furnished with information to the effect that, one of the leading local retail giants is said to have expressed desires to take over Talana Farms, and operate it either jointly with BDC, or solely.
BDC Head of Marketing Communications Boitswarelo Lebang could not divulge information to the publication regarding the current relationship between BDC and Botalana Venutres. “This information is confidential between BDC and our joint venture partner,” she said.
“What we can confirm is that BDC insists that all its projects and joint venture companies operate on a sustainable and commercially viable basis,” she added.
The BDC spokesperson could also not confirm nor deny that BDC is courting Choppies Group to establish a new partnership to operate the farm and noted that the information around discussion of such matters is strictly confidential.
“BDC insists that all its projects and joint venture companies operate on a sustainable and commercially viable basis. If achieving this goals means that the project / JV Company seeks assistance financial or technical from third parties then this is welcome as long as it is done within the scope of our agreement with our JV partner,” she explained.
Lebang said Botalana Ventures is an important and major producer of fresh produce to the local market. She noted that the fact that Botswana is still importing up to 80% of horticultural produce from South Africa presents a significant opportunity for both Botalana and other local Batswana farmers to step up and fill this demand.
Botalana Ventures Managing Director, who is based fulltime at the farm, could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.
The Minister of Justice, Machana Shamukuni says the search to appoint the Ombudsman and other critical heads of department is currently ongoing and the process is expected to be completed before end of the year.
The Ombudsman position fell vacant almost five months ago after Augustine Makgonatsotlhe was removed from the office and appointed as Ambassador to Kuwait.
Two Batswana nationals have been arrested in Zimbabwe for illegal trade in mercury. The duo is being held together with a Zimbabwean national who is being questioned by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
This publication understands that the suspects who are aged between 39 and 56 years hail from Tutume and Selebi-Phikwe. At the time of the arrest, they were found in possession of a pistol, bomb motor and four live rounds. It is understood that the suspects told investigators during interrogation that the deadly substance has a lucrative market in Far East countries, where the demand is high. It is further reported that the suspects claimed that the mercury can be easily accessed in mines through middleman.
The Namibian Lives Matter Movement has weighed in on the looming border dispute between their country and Botswana.
Commenting on reports that the Namibian Parliament has dispatched a committee along the border between the two countries on fact finding mission, the group commended“the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, De-fence and Security that will engage community members living along the Namibia Botswana Border in conducting public hearings into acts of aggression and brutality by Botswana Defence (BDF) Force against innocent and unarmed Namibians.”