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Autlwetse bemoans closure of diamond cutting plant

ONALENNA KELEBEILE
SEROWE: Kgotla Autlwetse has urged government to assist Teemane Manufacturing plant in Serowe with logistical support to prevent it from closing down.

The Botswana Democratic Party MP said it was disheartening that government could turn a blind eye to job losses, which would emanate from the plant’s closure. He said this was a major blow to the residents, as the company was the sole largest employer in the village, adding that if government intervened, almost 320 jobs would be saved.

Autlwetse said government’s bail out gesture towards companies such as Botswana Meat Commission should be extended to Diarough, the owners of Teemane Manufacturing plant in Serowe “We talk job creation in the ruling party manifesto, in the state of the nation address and in the current national budget. Does it make sense to create jobs while we cannot strive to save the already existing ones?” he asked.

Autlwetse suggested that the number of jobs targeted to be created must be reduced and emphasis be on saving the already existing ones. “We cannot be excited over creating jobs while many are lost. It does not make any economic sense,” he said.

The Serowe North legislator regretted that he and his counterparts were not consulted when the company closed down. He said he only received a call from his councillors early this month informing him about the closure of the company.

Autlwetse explained that on their return from the festive holidays, employees were met with a notice on the company buildings’ entrance, which stated that the company would reopen on February 2, 2012. Employees later received a memo informing them that the company had decided to close down.

“ I called the Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi the same evening but he was not aware of the closure.

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I also called the Minister of Minerals Energy and Water Resources Kitso Mokaila who said he was aware of the situation as Diarough management informed him in January that they had decided to close down due to accumulating losses they incur operating the factory,” he said.

Autlwetse further said his efforts to persuade the minister that government should intervene did not bear fruit as Mokaila told him that it was impossible since the Diarough closure was not a new occurrence considering that other companies had been folding due to economic challenges. “I was not impressed with the minister’s response and called my fellow Serowe MPs who were also unaware of the closure. I have tried to secure an urgent appointment with President Ian Khama to discuss a way forward but a meeting has not materialised,” he said.

Autlwetse added that he made a further request for an appointment through a letter and he is yet to receive feedback.

Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals Energy and Water Resources Nchidzi Mmolwa who Mokaila referred Mmegi to, said the company was closing down because it is operating at a loss and confirmed that it never opened after the festive holidays. “We have engaged the company to see how it can be assisted but there is really nothing that can be done.

We even engaged the director to consider other options to keep operating but there is nothing,” said Mmolawa. He added that the company had incurred losses in operation costs for the past two years. Mmolawa noted that the company was currently negotiating with workers, to offer them exit packages.



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