SELEBI-PHIKWE: Palapye was chosen as the site for a glass manufacturing company because of the availability of raw materials like silica around the town, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dorcus Makgato-Malesu, has said.
Addressing a full council meeting in Selebi-Phikwe yesterday, Malesu said government did not decide where developments were to be located around the country; instead, that depended on certain considerations by the investor.She disclosed that Botswana Exports and Development Authority (BEDIA) often requested landboards around the country to submit their land banks for consideration when investment opportunities arose. "Some landboards were very responsive to this request and Palapye was one of them," she said. "Others delayed.Investors need efficiency."
Malesu was responding to councillors' concerns that government had overlooked Selebi-Phikwe's urgent need to be treated as a special case because of the imminent closure of the copper-nickel mine. They had argued that locating the glass manufacturing company in Selebi-Phikwe would have been cheaper because of the availability of factory shells that were lying idle.They also complained that mainly South African chain stores were killing local enterprise and the informal sector because their trade licences included everything. Further, Botswana's trade regulations should be reviewed to reserve fast foods for SMMEs because they effectively sidelined small businesses in their present form.
In response, the minister said Botswana was a free market economy in which no one was prevented from running chain stores. "Business is all about competition," she said. "You should not rely on government to (help you) withstand the competition. Government is not the mother and father of (small) businesses." Malesu asked
"We made an effort here as council to develop plots for small scale businesses that were operating from homes but were told that the plots would be tendered for by all Batswana," Kgodungwe said. "But each plot costs P166,000. As a result, we have lost potential investors to areas like Palapye." The exorbitant cost of land was out of tune with the status of Selebi-Phikwe as a special case, she added. The councillor called on Malesu to consider lifting the ban on open barbeques in order to revive businesses that were closed after the ban was imposed.
Councillors also wanted to know what the Trade Ministry was doing about the industrial plots that had long been reserved for BEDIA but were never developed. In a rare note of consonance, the councillors said the decision by Malesu's ministry to give traditional beer dealers a grace period of six months to prepare for new regulations restricting the brewing and sale of traditional beer while negotiations to lift the regulations continued was a welcome development.