At least 22 Chinese shops in Francistown recently had their business licenses revoked by the Francistown City Council (FCC) following concerns that they were failing to comply with the Trade Act.
Responding to Gazette Business questions last week, Chief of Political Office at the Chinese Embassy, Shenping Tang said the Embassy is paying close attention to the fact that 22 Chinese shops in Francistown were informed by FCC in early February 2014 that their trade licenses would be revoked within three months because of the violation of the related Trade Act.
“The shop owners or traders in question have the right to appeal to the Regional Appeals Board within 30 days of notification if they are not satisfied with the decision, thereafter an appeal of the Regional Appeals Board may be lodged with the Minister of Trade and Industry if one is still not satisfied,” said Tang.
He further said that the Embassy will continue to keep contact with the departments concerned and make positive efforts to protect the legal rights and interests of Chinese nationals in Botswana.
Chairman of Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Xia Qiwang told Gazette Business that the concerned members are in the process of appealing to the Regional Appeals Board. “There must be some misunderstanding. The shop owners are not familiar with the Trade Act as it is not clear to them,” he said, and did not want to be drawn further into the discussion.
The FCC Clerk, Lebuile Israel said the clothing business is amongst those that are reserved for Batswana therefore, if one wants to trade in such they must be given a waiver first by the Minister of Trade and Industry. “Most of the shops are operating on waiver/exemption and they are given by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. We have realised as that the Act is not clear and it has not been followed as expected, therefore, we are now trying to work on the loophole to ensure that there is compliance,” he said.
He further said; “We are not withdrawing their licenses but advising them on the procedures to comply with the Act. We have advised them on the matter after following the appeal process, then they can go on to request for the waiver. We gave them three months, the intention is not to withdraw their licenses but to make sure there is compliance. Nonetheless, they are still operating, the month of March will be their last, and after that they should all comply.” He said some of these Chinese businesses were given waivers before but they then changed directorships to other Chinese nationalities.
He highlighted that the Chinese nationalities are not the only ones trading on exemptions, some of the business people operating on exemptions are South African citizens.
Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower president, Leta Mosienyane said in every business, they are promoting legitimate and legal business. “If it is not legitimate we will not support it. We support the efforts of the government and we want to see fairness in the business field. Government must facilitate the ease of doing business and that same business has to be legitimate,” he said.