FRANCISTOWN: The Francistown City Council (FCC) has finally terminated a lease agreement it signed with Equality Properties over the development of the central market nearly two decades ago.
Despite mounting pressure from the councillors and members of the community, the FCC has previously, citing some legal reasons, said that it cannot easily terminate its contract with Equality. The city council emphasised on the importance of fully understanding the terms of the contract before pushing for a termination.
According to FCC authorities, the contract was terminated for ‘lack of performance’ on the part of Equality Properties, which is owned by businessman, Norman Moleele. The council leased the market facility to Equality Properties towards the beginning of 2004. Under the lease agreement, Equality Properties was supposed to refurbish the market and turn it into a new state-of-the-art Central Business District (CBD).
The company was to pay the city council a certain fee annually for leasing the plot. “We have since issued a new expression of interest in a bid to solicit a new developer for the market plot.
“It has been a while since the contract was terminated. We issued Equality (Properties) with a final termination notice early this year and we received no reply. “That is when we ultimately decided that it will be worth it to proceed with our plans to terminate the contract,” FCC clerk, Lopang Pule told Mmegi yesterday.
Pule highlighted that the development of the market is part of the economic revitilisation plan of Francistown, which will soon be rolled out.
The first termination notice to Equality Properties was issued some time last year. Early this year, the council rebuffed a proposal by Equality Properties to bond the central market plot in order to secure a loan to develop the anticipated new state-of-the-art CBD. The company had written to the council asking for facilitation on registering a bond of the plot to a commercial bank in order to secure funds for development.
In rejecting Equality Properties overtures, the council said the demands by company were risky and not in order.
The FCC noted that allowing the company to bond the plot is very risky because it will mean that the FCC will lose it when the developer defaults on paying the bank. For years, Francistown councillors have been calling on the council to terminate the lease agreement because Equality Properties had taken unacceptably to long a time to develop the market plot.
The FCC believes that through leasing the central market, which is situated in a prime location, it can generate much-needed cash. Turning the market into a new state-of-the-art CBD can also create employment in the city, according to the council.