PALAPYE: Close to 400 professionals originating from Palapye have formed a foundation called Palapye First Development Foundation, whose main mandate is to help uplift the livelihood of the villagers.
The Foundation maintains that they are not out to duplicate the mandate of any existing structure, but are focusing on improving the economic position and general welfare of the people of the greater Palapye. It aims at achieving Palapye development goals in partnership with existing structures to strengthen their capacities through mutual understanding.
The professionals’ dream is to turn Palapye into what they call the Dubai model with a pool of expertise they have. The Foundation’s secretary general Mosotho Modirwa, a retired photo journalist said Palapye has a pool of expertise who have been sitting on their laurels and have never contributed a thing in their village’s development plans.
“We have missed out on a lot of things, but we believe we can grow Palapye with the expertise that we have and we are willing to render the expertise for free,” he said.
These professionals came together because, according to Comfort Molosiwa who has retired from active politics, they did not want to be watching from the back but to be at the centre stage as they cannot afford to be spectators of economic development in their own backyard.
“We want to be in the forefront and we want to work hand in hand with investors not to have decisions taken without our input,” he said.
He added that they identify areas that need strengthening and started the engagement informally in July last year and an agenda was set. They intend to be legally registered so that the Foundation can be in a position to approach and work with any existing organisation.
He said as Palapye natives they did not have any input in the infrastructural layout in Palapye hence there was no proper planning and there is now a need to align structures in areas such as Serorome, Boikago, Khurumela, Thomadithotse, Madiba and Lotsane areas.
“There is a need to go back to the drawing board to realign them for proper services to be provided so that Palapye assume the standard that matches the pace of her economic development, even if it means having to relocate residents. We are available to render our services,” he said.
He further explained that the Foundation brings everybody on board to come up with an agenda in terms of development. Molosiwa stressed that the group is apolitical, non-sexist and non-racial but purely brought by a common goal of advancing the village’s development agenda.
The professionals met in October last year where an interim committee made up of Happy Seabelo, Annah Phalalo and Bridget Tlhabologang was appointed to mobilise and set the agenda.
“We have also had audience with the village leadership upon realising that our youth do not know their village history and evolution. We are not going to compete with existing statutory structures. We have positioned ourselves such that our mandate will be more overarching,” he said.
Molosiwa said they have been tasked with exploring development opportunities around Palapye, adding that they have realised that the Palapye Development Trust’s scope is limited while the Foundation’s mandate on the other hand will look at developments in general.
He said they have also realised that the planning of Palapye in terms of the regional planning is key to driving the village into a city. He said the plan identifies certain areas in terms of activity corridors thus increasing their development value.
He said another opportunity is that there are activity corridors, adding that there are many plots that are being converted into commercial use around Palapye.
He said the community has to understand the implications of that conversion hence this is where the Foundation comes in to sensitise them against being tempted to sell their residential plots.
“We aim to assist the community not to sell, but instead turn their plots into commercial ones and lease them out or alternatively form syndicates to benefit from the economic opportunities concerning land around Palapye,” he added.
He stressed that they cannot just watch as the community lose their plots. He said there is a high sale of residential plots around Palapye.
“There are also pieces of land leased to Botswana Investment Trade Centre and we want to see how Palapye can leverage on that land reserved for Special Economic Zones. We want to participate in identifying potential investors and work hand in hand with BITC. We want to leverage on opportunities lying in the coal hub,” he said.
They also want to leverage on opportunities in the tourism sector, as there are many tourism attraction sites in the area.
Modirwa on the other hand added that on the area of education Palapye is one of the best performing villages and said the Foundation believes that government alone cannot shoulder the responsibility of improving the education system hence some of them have volunteered to offer extra lessons after school.
On sports and youth development, Modirwa said they are also exploring possibilities of consolidating all football teams in the village and come up with one formidable side and develop all sport codes in the same manner.
This would also draw kids from the streets. They are also working on women empowerment by looking at ways of getting them out of poverty. “We will look at how we can assist them with a pool of expertise that we have so that they can become businesspeople by assisting them with drawing of business plans. Women are a target because they are mostly affected by poverty and heading families,” he said. With the blessing of the village leadership that the Foundation has received they are planning to have a committee of elders in place to act as advisors in all aspects because they have institutional memory and indigenous knowledge that would benefit Palapye. “This is our dream for Palapye,” Modirwa said.
There are currently 13 committees, one for each portfolio. The business committee would mostly look at existing opportunities and assisting on how to access funding from financial institutions.
The group is currently formalising the organisation so that it can have a legal standing and have already drafted a deed of trust that would be shared with members. The registration is expected to be complete by July this year. The Foundation would have a board of trustees comprising Palapye community members. The Foundation has since opened a Facebook page where they interact and share ideas on the development of their village.