Vol.22 No.83

Thursday 2 June 2005    

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News
Residents blamed for influx of Chinese businesses

TUDUETSO SETSIBA
6/2/2005 2:56:32 PM (GMT +2)

FRANCISTOWN: Francistown residents have been blamed for the influx of Chinese businesses in the city. The chairperson of Francistown City Council (FCC) trade committee, Sam Masunga said a lot of Batswana closed their businesses in order to make way for the Chinese.


"Batswana are greedy, Chinese people would offer to pay the rent of P150, 000 in two years. Who would resist such an offer?" Masunga asserted that renting places to Chinese businesses in a way encouraged their influx. "Had Batswana not agreed to pave way for them, they would not be so many in the city." He cited an incident in Ramokgwebana where Score had wanted to rent a place but the owner refused only to give it to Chinese. "These people have a lot of money, that is why Batswana easily fall for them." Masunga said the directive issued by the Ministry of Trade to suspend issuance of new licences and transfer of licences for importers/exporters, wholesalers, specialised wholesalers and specialised dealers to non-citizens has helped a lot. "You would not believe the numbers in which they were coming to the city, had the directive not come out, so many of them would be here and a lot of businesses would have closed down." Though the licenses have been suspended, Masunga said his committee continues to receive applications from foreigners. "But they are not as many as they used to be, I guess they are already informed about the directive."

Former Francistown mayor, Motlatsi Molapise said the directive came too late. "Botswana, especially Francistown, is already flooded with Chinese. A lot of local businesses are closing because they cannot compete with Chinese who get their merchandise at lower prices." Molapise said the competition is unfair as the playing ground is not level. "These Chinese are selling goods that are produced at low labour costs, while Batswana have to purchase raw materials from other countries and spend a lot of money on labour costs. How do you expect them to compete well with the Chinese?" He said the situation in Francistown is disheartening. Molapise said the influx of Chinese people should be treated with seriousness. "The government has failed the people, this could be perpetuated by soft loans and the grants it gets from China."

Another councillor, David Tawele asserted that the Chinese community has elbowed out a lot of local businesses. "Batswana are suffering as a result of this." Tawele said the suspension of issuance of new licences has come too late. "The damage is already done, Chinese are everywhere, the situation is irreversible because we cannot take the licences from them." He cited the flooding of the Flea market by the Chinese as one area of concern. "But as a council, we can try our best with the issue of flea market, but for those operating in shops, there isn't anything that we can do." Tawele said the whole process is complicated by the fact that the government has entered into agreements with China. "If we make an abrupt stoppage, we are likely to destroy the relationship we have built with China," he said.

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