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Masisi Somersaults On ‘Punishing’ Foreign Investors

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  • Pleads with Batswana to be inclusive and supportive to foreign investors
  • He had initially sworn to ensure larger economic share is channeled towards citizen businesses

LETLHOGILE MPUANG

President Mokgweetsi Masisi appears to have chickened out of taking action against some foreign owned companies, which he publicly described as ‘not considerate and disrespectful’ to their citizen employees, The Botswana Gazette has established

Addressing the nation on Botswana Television (BTV) last week, Masisi pleaded with Batswana to be tolerant, inclusive and supportive of all foreign investors in Botswana, which is a change of tone as compared to what he said during lockdown that it is time to prioritise citizen businesses.

In May this year, Masisi publicly said he was extremely disappointed by the conduct of some foreign owned companies.

“… re bua ka dikomponi, tse e leng gore beng ba tsone ba tsile mono ba tsamaya ka bo rampeechane. Gompieno, ba humile khumo ya di naledi. Bangwe ba bone, bare swabisitse … (Some of these business owners were very poor when they first arrived in this country, today they are multi-millionaires),” Masisi said, adding that the time has come to have citizens as the biggest players in the country’s economy. He also said he has already instructed his cabinet to find ways of ensuring that the largest share of the economy is channeled towards citizens.

Since April 2020, several companies had decided to ‘unlawfully’ retrench employees, as a result of cashflow disruptions.

However, sources at the Office of the President (OP) told this publication that the President has somersaulted. This comes at a time when there is hype, with many Batswana calling for the support of citizen owned business instead, which prompted Masisi to call for inclusivity and tolerance and support to the foreign businesses in Botswana.
“Most of these companies belong to the businessmen of Indian and Chinese origin. Government has not taken any action against them; and chances are that no decision will be taken. The issue is also political,” said a well placed source at OP.

The informer also stressed that some of these business people are Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) sponsors.
Minister of Investment Trade and Industry Peggie Serame was unable to respond to this publication’s enquiry at the time of going to press. Numerous attempts to get a comment from Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Dumezweni Mthimkhulu were also futile as his phone rang unanswered on Tuesday (Yesterday) afternoon.

The Botswana Gazette was also unsuccessful when trying to speak to the Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Mpho Balopi.

NO ACTION AGAINST GIPS
Furthermore, this publication has been told that tertiary institution, Gaborone Institution of Professional Studies (GIPS) is one of the companies that were targeted. On March 31st 2020, GIPS management informed staff members that payment of their salaries would be suspended until a date, at which learning would be allowed to resume. However due to some serious public backlash the institution withdrew their position a few days later, and so did several other businesses.

GIPS is owned by businessman Arjinder Pal Singh. He also owns Major Blue Aviation College; the two institutions enjoy a significant amount of business from the government through the Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF).

There are several complaints against the tertiary institution relating to poor quality education. No action has been taken against GIPS though.

When asked about his current relationship with government, he said they have been paying staff full salaries and have since withdrawn their announcement.

He further said GIPS’ relationship with stakeholders is normal.

In 2018, The Sikh Group reported that Singh was rated amongst the top 100 successful Sikh in the world. It stated that, “Arjinder Pal Singh is a businessman based in Botswana. His business empire spreads across the education, construction, tourism, airline, manufacturing and agriculture industries. He started his humble beginnings in 1992 by venturing into the education sector.” In 2007, he set up a manufacturing plant which manufactures medical and homeware products, based in Dubai. He also has other businesses in India and Australia.

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