Goabaone Chwene, an aspiring young farmer in Francistown who had his business proposals rejected by the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) since 2012, commenced a 420 km walk on Monday in protest against the financial institution.
The walk began at Francistown Chedu Choga Shopping Complex and will end in Gaborone where he also seeks to meet President Ian Khama. The walk is expected to take 10 days.
Briefing a press conference last week Friday in Francistown he said that he decided to take the long walk to try and send a message to Batswana on how CEDA is failing the nation especially the youth.
Narrating his ordeal Chwene said in 2012 he came up with a business proposal to start a seed multiplication and a fodder production project at Gulubane village in North East District worth over P3.8 million. He claims that he had applied for funding and his proposal was rejected several times by the financial institution without giving sound reasons. He said that he wanted to produce lab lab seeds, yellow maize and fodder to be cultivated in a 150 hectare area. Chwene said that despite making a well substantiated business plan, the CEDA officers rejected his proposal without giving sound reasons. He believes his project was rejected to sabotage him and with malice.
“I believe CEDA does not want to help those who are in need especially us the youth. The painful part is that I had to spend P40 000 when doing this business proposal as I engaged the services of a business expert from South Africa. Among some of the reasons they are giving for turning down my proposal is that the proposed project is a highly capital intensive venture as more than 60 percent of the total capital requirement is needed for purchasing farm implements and farm developments. I do not believe this is a valid reason to turn down my proposal,” he said.
Chwene however maintained that he tried to prove to them that the proposal is viable but most of the time they gave him a cold shoulder. He also said that he made several attempts to report this issue to the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Vice President’s Office, but his efforts were fruitless as he was sent from pillar to post.
“I also made several efforts to engage with CEDA but they gave me a cold shoulder,” said a clearly disappointed Chwene.
Last year he was also arrested by the police and was slapped with a charge of common nuisance after embarking on a hunger strike and single-handedly making a demonstration near the CEDA offices in Francistown complaining about the financial institutions services.┬á He is due to appear at the Francistown Magistrate Court to face the charge. He is represented by Francistown based lawyer, Morgan Moseki.
Chwene is however not shaken, vowing that he will fight his battle until he attains victory. He said even if it means dying, he will do so to sacrifice for young people.“My plea is for Batswana especially the youth to support me in this initiative. It is sad that organizations like CEDA which were established to help Batswana are instead doing the opposite thing. I am not only doing this for myself, but for all the youth. I have since realized that organizations like CEDA do not have the plight of the youth at heart.┬á I am trying to do this farm business because I want to contribute to the economy of this country as such a project will create employment. I am totally confident that this project is viable,” he said.
The Telegraph is in possession of a number of his rejection letters from CEDA.One of the letters, dated 8th of December 2014 which was written , by the Client Service Centre Manager of CEDA, Ditiro Mangadi and James┬á Moribame who is the Regional Manager-North; partly reads “The research done by CEDA indicates that positive and continued yields could not be expected due to the dry land cultivation nature of the project. On the fodder side of the business, the market is further hindered by the seasonality of the project as farmers have an appetite to supplement livestock only during a dry season. Therefore the project will rely more on the seeds thus rendering the project not financially viable.”
“I have since written a number of letters to President Ian Khama but unfortunately I never got any response. This time around I believe that upon my arrival in Gaborone after the long walk I will manage to meet the President in person,” he said.
Asked about his security as he embarks on the long walk, Chwene said he pins his hope on God.
“I will not let fear defeat me. I am doing this because I believe that I am doing something which will change my life and the lives of the other youths. I have since written a number of letters to the Commissioner of Police, Keabetswe Makgophe on issues of safety and I am still waiting for his response,” he said in conclusion.