Just as government injected money into the mining town of Selibe Phikwe to save it from economic failure, the same should be done for Boteti region, which is inundated with diamond reserves whose existence cannot be guaranteed forever. This was said by Member of Parliament (MP) for Boteti East Sethomo Lelatisitswe, who expressed fears that the mining townships of Orapa and Letlhakane in Boteti will not be spared the same economic woes engulfing the mining town of Selibe Phikwe.
“Boteti also qualifies for a SPEDU-like initiative. The region is blessed with considerable quality diamond deposits, but diamonds are not forever. We should be thinking of what to do after depletion of diamonds. We must start now,” said Lelatisitswe in his response to the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s budget proposal last week.
The Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) was initiated to save the mining town of Selibe Phikwe, which was tottering on the brink of economic collapse because of the failure of BCL mine due to dwindling deposits and erratic copper/nickel prices. Due to the economic meltdown, government pumped millions to save BCL and eventually set up SPEDU to boost sectors such as tourism, manufacturing, horticulture and piggery in the Selibe Phikwe region. SPEDU interventions are expected to diversify the town’s economy away from over dependence of mineral deposits and also create employment.
Already, a steel manufacturing plant is in operation creating jobs for residents of Selibe Phikwe and the entire region. A processing and packaging plant for horticulture produce is also underway. Lelatisitswe believes the same interventions are needed to resuscitate the mining townships of Orapa and Letlhakane which face an uncertain future because of depleting diamond resources and a dip in global demand for diamonds.
MTI budget proposal
Meanwhile, acting Minister of Trade and Industry, Sadique Kebonang requested a sum of P982 074 320 for both the recurrent and development budget for the sectors and departments that fall under his portfolio. While the recurrent budget proposal will consume P908 526 320, the development budget will be allocated P73 548 000. Parastatals that fall under the Ministry of trade; Botswana Bureau of Standards, Botswana Investment and Trade Centre, Botswana Trade Commission, Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency, Competition Authority, Companies and Intellectual Property Authority, Local Enterprise Authority and SPEDU will be allocated P721 563 220 under the recurrent budget. Kebonang proposed P31 257 420 specifically for Selebi-Phikwe under SPEDU initiative.