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Choppies on a ‘Buy Botswana’ quest

Ram Ottapathu

Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) listed leading supermarket Choppies has continued to drive the buy Botswana mantra in pushing the ‘Buy Botswana’ agenda in order to reduce import bills and utilise local suppliers post-coronavirus lockdown.

With a large number of supermarkets and retail outlets all over the country never fully expressing interest in working or collaborating with local suppliers, with most of them opting to outsource resources from outside the country. Two years ago, the Ministry of investment, trade and industry banned the importation of bottled water, fruits, tomatoes, potatoes and oranges, among others in a bid to promote the local trade.

“The COVID- 19 pandemic caught us unaware, it has affected the economy and has left a number of business bruised. As one of the leading supermarkets in the country we have decided to work closely with local suppliers in a bid to empower them, keep their business and the economy afloat during this difficult period,” said Choppies Ramachandran ‘Ram’ Ottapathu.

Due to the pandemic a number of suppliers especially the non-tendering ones have been on the receiving end since trade has been affected, this has resulted to some winding up and closing shop. “When we transformed from Wayside Supermarket to Choppies our goal and vision was to work with local suppliers because we could see that there was an open gap that needed to be filled immediately. We started off small working with a few suppliers but with the current situation we have to work with as many as we can to save jobs and keep local trade rolling,” stated Ram.

He emphasized that the vision for recruiting local suppliers is to create employment, empower locals and create a solid local trading system which will even see local suppliers exporting their products and services in the foreseeable future. Statistics show that with over 200 retail outlets and is working closely with 1226 Batswana suppliers that supply Choppies with different goods and services.

Ram further stated that the boardroom wars that took place last year delayed the process of Choppies recruiting more local suppliers as it dragged for a long period and resulted in the previous board wasting a lot of resources such as engaging a forensic auditor amongst others.

“When and if an opportunity surfaces like the one which is being offered by Choppies an entrepreneur like myself or any other would accept it as long as it serves my business in as much as it serves the retailer. There is a light of hopefulness beaming, it could be something to tie our hopes into as entrepreneurs,” said a local supplier Opelo Letshwiti od Lesweedy Diaries.

The Choppies supply base comprises of security companies, electrical contractors, farmers, manufactures, civil contractors, refrigeration contractors and IT vendors and equipment suppliers to mention but a few. Ram’s ideology for business ownership stretches to other countries where he established Choppies, statistics show that regionally a total number of 4653 suppliers have been recruited to supply Choppies outlets in their respective countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

“Localizing your supply chain represents a tremendous opportunity to help the community and economy as it creates diversity. SMEs tend to benefit hugely from such healthy local and national economic conditions. One would say when Ram conceptualized Choppies he had an ideology for indigenization of business ownership which is why he is working with local suppliers,” said an economics professor from the University of Botswana who preferred to remain anonymous.

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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