By Calistus Bosaletswe
Debswana may be intruding on a business terrain earmarked for the small black market citizen operators in tourism who acquired financial assistance from financial institutions such as the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA).
Be that as it may, government has downplayed Debswana’s move to operate hotel and tourism accommodation facilities in Orapa arguing that the company was not operating a guest house when in fact the opposite is true.
The Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Minister, Kitso Mokaila, has vehemently denied a giant company was operating a guest house in Orapa.
The Sunday Standard has been able to unearth information to the contrary about a guest house that the giant mining company runs in Orapa.
A guest house that Mokaila denied to be in existence belongs to the mining company and charges a fee of P750 for overnight stay at Seolo Guest House.
This information surfaced when The Sunday Standard inquired about the prices from guest house employees for overnight stay at a guest house run by the mining company. In their response the employees, who cannot be named, confirmed the guest house is run by Debswana.
In their website the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) has advertised Seolo Lodge as a guest house for holiday makers.
The BTO further says Seolo Guest House has been graded as a two star accommodation facility contrary to Mokaila’s argument that the BTO has not issued a licence for a guest house that Debswana operates in Orapa.
Mokaila was responding to Boteti East legislator, Sethomo Lelatisitswe, who had asked the minister in parliament whether he was aware that Debswana was operating similar businesses that are run by citizens who acquired funding from different financial institutions.
The minister argued in his response that Debswana was not competing with locals on businesses reserved for Batswana.
Mokaila said that during their investigations they only discovered that there was one facility housing contractor employees in Orapa.
By his own version, the camp operates 600 rooms that are shared among contractors who pay between P30 and P50,00.
The minister indicated that he was unable to state the occupancy rate since the facility is not submitting monthly returns. However, Lelatisitswe argued despite the minister’s denial the company was running a guest house which competes with local guest houses in Orapa and Letlhakane. He indicated that the most painful thing was that the mining company was charging far less money compared to those run by individuals affecting their business.
The diamond giant company’s move into the hospitality business has been viewed as a move that defies the miner’s dream known tagline of “Orapa today, Boteti tomorrow”.
“Orapa today, Boteti tomorrow” was the brain child of former Orapa, Letlhakane, Damtshaa Mines (OLDM) General Manager – the late Adrian Gale who came up with the vision to ensure that Boteti area continues to survive after the depletion of diamond at one of the world’s richest mines.
The vision was meant to bring the private sector on board to venture into different businesses that would support the sustenance of the area after diamonds depletion.