Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Concern over indigenous Batswana being sidelined in petrol station dealerships

The Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry, Keletso Rakhudu, is not aware of any indigenous Batswana who have been pushed out of petrol station dealership. To his knowledge the local petroleum is fully liberalized to the private sector with dominance by Multinational Oil Companies (MOC’s) in terms of infrastructural ownership and product sales.

“The MOC’s are responsible for direct procurement, marketing and distribution of petroleum products,” Rakhudu said. “Licences for operating petrol filling stations are reserved for citizens or companies wholly owned by citizens of Botswana under the Trade Regulation 2011.”

Currently, there are five MOC’s with at least 18 citizen MOC’s operating in Botswana, including Vivo Energy Botswana (Pty) Ltd, Chevron Botswana, Engen Marketing Botswana, Puma Energy Botswana and Total Oil Botswana.

“These companies have under their brands about 160 filling stations around the country of which 91 are both local dealer owned and operated whilst 69 are owned by MOC’s and operated by local dealers,” he said.

The statement provoked some arguments as the opposition legislators indicated that filling stations were not owned by indigenous Batswana.

Gaborone South West MP, Botsalo Ntuane, had raised the question on the order paper.

Through a parliamentary question, Ntuane nudged the minister to say if he was aware that many indigenous Batswana had been pushed out of petrol station dealerships.

He called on the Assistant Minister to allay fears that the petroleum industry is not dominated by cartels, which own several filling stations and act in cahoots with petroleum companies to push indigenous Batswana out of the industry.

Opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy and Botswana Congress Party MPs, Nehemiah Modubule and Dumelang Saleshando, respectively, argued that Rakhudu was beating about the bush over a simple question.

They said that the question demanded the criteria used by the petroleum companies for awarding dealerships of filling stations with regard to indigenous Batswana as opposed to non-indigenous.

“As I have already indicated, I am not aware of any indigenous Batswana who have been pushed out of the petrol station business dealership,” said Rakhudu.

The government, he said, has set no criteria for the oil companies in awarding dealerships to petrol station dealers.

“Individual companies have their own criteria for awarding dealerships to operators of petrol stations. The local oil companies are privately owned entities operating under a franchise business model,” Rakhudu added.

As the debate ensued, the Assistant Minister promised to do more research as it appeared the question needed some time and research to give an informed answer.

With the petroleum sector facing challenges relating to inadequacy of the current legal instrument to efficiently and effectively regulating the operations of the downstream sector, Rakhudu noted his ministry is at an advanced stage of developing appropriate institutional and regulatory framework to realign the development of the sector.

“Currently, an Oil Sector Strategy and a Petroleum Supplies Act are being formulated to ensure that the operations of the industry are clearly spelt out,” he concluded.

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