SA vs Botswana retailers : Citizen retailers go for the jugular

  • Botswana retailers support Trade Minister’s hard-line stance against SA retailers
  • Competition Authority to complete probe on alleged cartel behaviour in retail malls


A group of Batswana retail operators, last week pledged solidarity with the Minister of Trade and Industry, Vincent Seretse, over his hard-line stance and refusal to offer exemptions and licenses to South African retailers for business lines reserved for citizens. In a letter copied to Lokwalo Leta Mosienyane, president of Business Botswana, the retailers say they support Seretse’s stance as they are at the mercy of cartel behaviour exhibited by big moneyed South African retailers who dominate local retail mall shop spaces, dictating terms and not willing to bend to Government’s Citizen Economic Empowerment intentions.
Minister Seretse acknowledged receipt of the letter on Thursday, 7th April, and said that he appreciates their gesture and pledged to continue the citizen empowerment drive.
Citizen retailers feel disadvantaged by property owners who they feel collude with South African chains; they have as a result lobbied the Trade Ministry seeking to get a fair share of Botswana’s estimated P15 billion annual retail turnover.
After this publication published an article last week where owners of shopping malls raised concerns about their inability to secure waivers from the Minister for South African retail stores, local retailers wrote the letter to support Seretse’s stance against the issuance of waivers.“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,” reads the letter. The letter also posits that leases from these landlords are always based on South African laws and those laws are drafted by South African property agents who always refuse to give citizen retailers space.
“These big malls always argue to our Government that South African retailers will create jobs for Batswana and bring foreign investments,” adding that “they never disclose to the Minister that their interest is not employment creation but rather they prefer foreign tenants who are backed by international banks and multibillion dollars global companies, while local banks always refuse to support citizen owned franchises and it is only CEDA ( Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency) that supports local retailers.” The retailers say giant South Africa retailers and shopping mall owners are defeating citizen empowerment efforts, and by lobbying the Minister on behalf of the South Africans, they secure long term tenancy contracts which guarantee rental payments.
“These international retailers refuse to partner with citizens in Botswana whereas in other countries such as Nigeria and Angola, they partner with citizens to the extent of assisting them with financing, with those in South Africa offering opportunities to Black South Africans to comply with Black Economic Empowerment whereas in Botswana they refuse to recognise our Citizen Empowerment initiative.”According to Batswana retailers, shopping malls charge citizen tenants exorbitant rentals and are always happy to eject them from their malls from time to time when they default, yet big anchor tenants always fall behind in rental arrears for several months and allowed to trade.
One of the proponents of the letter, businessman, Percy Raditladi, told Gazette Business that: “Minister Seretse always tells us as local business people that there are many opportunities that we are not using and I think he just got tired of dealing with these big businesses from outside, which get waivers at the expense of citizen empowerment.”
Alongside the general Clothing category, the legislation promulgated in 2007 has reserved other businesses trading licenses for citizens of Botswana, including: auctioneers; cleaning services; curio shops ; fresh produce; funeral parlours; General dealers; hairdressers; hire services; laundromats; petrol filling stations and takeaway food outlets.
Meanwhile, the Competition Authority will soon release the finding of a probe into shopping malls which came as a result of a number of complaints to the Authority about some anti-competitive elements in Botswana’s shopping malls. In actual fact, the Authority intervened in a case at Molapo Crossing Shopping Mall in Gaborone which revealed the existence of an anti-competitive exclusive agreement between the shopping mall owner and the anchor tenant, Pick n’ Pay. During the development of most shopping malls in Botswana, the Competition Law was not yet in place to encourage competition within these structures. Anchor tenants in Botswana are usually the large retail chain stores such as Pick n’ Pay, Choppies, Spar and Shoprite.

Inquiries were conducted in Gaborone, Francistown, Selebi – Phikwe, Maun, Palapye, Jwaneng, Serowe, Kanye, Mochudi, Kasane, Ghanzi, Ramotswa, Molepolole, Lobatse, Mogoditshane. “The Competition Authority is currently analysing data from the shopping malls inquiry and the results will be released very soon,” Competition Authority Communications Director told Gazette Business.
Photo: Picture of a retail shopping mall such as Game city
Pull Quote: “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” Local retailers