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‘We are not targeting SA retailers’ – Seretse

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Says there is a miscommunication that his ministry forces South African retailers into joint ventures and partnerships with Batswana.

OAITSE MATHALA

The Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Vincent Seretse says that contrary to the “miscommunication” in the media, his ministry is not forcing South African retailers into joint ventures and partnerships with Batswana.Seretse said this last week when speaking at the Rail Park Mall 5th Anniversary celebrations- where he explained that the regulation requires that 51% of shares in foreign companies operating in spaces reserved for Batswana should be owned by Batswana.
“We have stopped exemptions in areas reserved for Batswana,” he noted, highlighting that his ministry had engaged foreign companies and that they have a “good understanding.” Gazette Business reported in April this year that a group of Batswana retail operators pledged solidarity with Seretse over his hard-line stance and refusal to offer exemptions and licenses to South African retailers for business lines reserved for citizens. They had written a letter to the minister decrying the cartel behaviour exhibited by big moneyed South African retailers who they say dominate local retail mall shop spaces, dictating terms and not willing to bend to government’s Citizen Economic Empowerment intentions.
This publication, at the time, learnt that citizen retailers feel disadvantaged by property owners who they feel collude with South African chains and as a result lobbied the Trade ministry seeking to get a fair share of Botswana’s estimated P15 billion annual retail turnover.“On behalf of young and upcoming citizen retailers, we hereby state our position that we fully support the position that you have taken in ensuring that South African retailers give citizens of Botswana an opportunity to participate in the retail industry as franchisees and or partners. Property landlords who are making noise about your refusal to give exemptions for trading licenses for South African retailers in Botswana collude with South African retailers to exclude citizens of Botswana from being tenants and even offering them opportunities,” read the letter.
Owners of shopping malls on the other hand raised concerns about their inability to secure waivers from the minister for South African retail stores. Their biggest concern is that if South African retailers are not given exemptions, this might affect the occupancy rate in their malls and in-turn affect their returns. It was reported earlier this month that the South African retailers were looking into lobbying Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi for a further softening of the Trade Act that compels them to partner, 51%, with locals if they are to be granted trading licenses to trade in spaces reserved for Batswana.

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