The construction of Morupule B Power Station, a glass manufacturing factory, a coal wash plant at Morupule, the presence of a regional BURS office, in addition to being the site of Botswana's ambitious University of Science and Technology, are just some of many indicators that MP Goya and others point out to make the case for Palapye being shorn of its village status, writes ONALENNA MODIKWA
PALAPYE: Within a short space of time, Palapye has experienced a high level of construction activities that have contributed immensely to its economic and population growth as well as improve its prospects of graduating from its village status.
The village has also developed more into a hospitality hub, as evidenced by the mushrooming of lodges to meet the accommodation needs of those in transit. There is ongoing construction of two big lodges situated along the Palapye-Mahalapye Road and opposite the neighbourhood of Khurumela. One of the lodges is reportedly a part of the Mogoditshane-based Big Five Lodge while the other belongs to a home-grown Palapye businessperson.
Currently available conference facilities are no longer able to host national conferences that are increasingly coming to Palapye for its central location. It is hoped that the mushrooming lodging will address the situation.
Along the Palapye-Serowe Road, the expansion of Morupule Colliery and ongoing Morupule B projects also promises to change the landscape of the village. Palapye also has a multi-million pula police station that is expected to be operational by 2011. Opposite the police station site, construction of a glass manufacturing industry is taking place.
These projects add to places of interest that already exist in the village, such as the now old railway station and the airstrip. The amalgam will present a great tourism potential for the village.
Village authorities here acknowledge and appreciate the economic tide and say this improves their request to have Palapye declared a township. The Chairman of Palapye Administrative Authority, Councillor Onneetse Ramogapi, says maintaining the status quo of Palapye as a village might not market Botswana's second university well.
In Ramogapi's view, the village has developed so much within a short space of time that it has outgrown most district capitals and its village status.
"The expansion of Morupule Power Station, the construction of a glass manufacturing firm, the building of a police station, and a coal wash plant at Morupule coal mine are ongoing projects that prove beyond a doubt that Palapye has long surpassed village status."
The Department of Public Prosecutions and Botswana Unified Revenue Services have opened branches here while Botswana Housing Corporation is building more and more houses to meet the overwhelming demand of accommodation as a result of the increasing population.
"All these huge projects are a challenge to us," says Ramogapi. "We must, as leaders, stand up and advocate for the elevation of Palapye to the status of a town." He adds that with the amended Local
Ramogapi said he once tabled a motion in the Central District Council to that effect and that even public servants based here once expressed the same desire to the council.
He argues that once declared a town and 'de-tribalised', Palapye's service delivery to residents and the wider district would be enhanced. "If Selebi-Phikwe was built because of BCL Mine, why can't we be declared a town because of Morupule Colliery?" Ramogapi queries.
With its village status, Palapye is home to Botswana's only coal mine, a power station that is critical to the country's supply, and the Central District's sole fire station that covers a territory stretching from Dibete to Makalamabedi.
The Member of Parliament for Palapye, Master Goya, also believes it is high time the place was elevated. "All parameters that are needed for a village to be declared a town are there," Goya says. "I even see Palapye becoming Botswana's official third city. It is the only place strategically located to alleviate the already congested Francistown and Gaborone."
Goya is also lobbying for a dual carriageway to run through the village. He is optimistic that because the issue has been thoroughly discussed before, the next budget allocations will meet Palapye's changing status.
Palapye is ideal for scientific research and agriculture studies for students at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology through ongoing projects at both the mine and the power station.
In Goya's view, the mushrooming of lodges that is currently taking place is not enough for the hospitality Palapye will increasingly have to offer. Existing facilities are often fully booked, leaving people who came to do business here having to seek accommodation in neighbouring Serowe and Mahalapye. "Any investor in the hospitality industry is encouraged to come and put up a five star hotel here," Goya says.
The MP plans to approach the Minister of Lands and Housing, Nonofo Molefhi, about reserving the area around the flyover at the Martins Drift turnoff for infrastructural development. One thousand metres of land on both sides of the A1 Highway there, especially on the western side, is what Goya has in mind to give Palapye a major facelift.
Streetlights should run from that point into Palapye, others from the power station into Palapye, and more from the new police station into Palapye, to show that it is from here that power for the whole country is generated.