April 11 2010: The late Louis Nchindo planned to be right at the apex of Botswana’s tourism industry by splashing over P600 million in five star hotel resorts, replete with 18-hole golf courses and top of the range sporting facilities in Botswana’s top tourism destinations.
This was revealed by former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Gaylard Kombani. He said that as early as 2001, and while he was still the Managing Director of Debswana, Nchindo submitted a detailed proposal to government in which he wanted to be allocated large tracts of land in Gaborone, Maun, Kasane and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Nchindo applied for land inside the Chobe National Park, on which he planned to set up a 5-star hotel, a top of the range golf course and sporting facilities. He also wanted government to allocate him land in Gaborone, somewhere between the intersection of Nelson Mandela road and the Western Bypass, the road to the airport and CTO, in which he wanted to establish another five star hotel, a casino, and conference and sporting facilities.
Yet another plot was sought in Maun, on which another hotel would be set up. A camping site was also proposed for the CKGR. In his proposals, Nchindo showed acute knowledge of government policy, in terms of economic diversification and employment creation.
“He explained in detail how the projects would complement government’s efforts to diversify the economy, grow the tourism sector and increase citizen participation in the tourism industry, and also create employment. The whole project would create over 1000 jobs. All the hotels were ideally located as they were in the vicinity of the airports,” said Kombani.
However, Kombani and then Minister of Trade and Industry, Tebelelo Seretse, were skeptical of Nchindo’s proposal.
“This was because the shareholding of TDC was not known, until at a later stage when Nchindo told us that TDC is owned by citizen and foreign investors. He also said that some of the shares would be reserved for citizens to purchase,” said Kombani.
In June 2001, Minister Seretse wrote a letter to Nchindo, appreciating the thoroughness with which the proposal was prepared, but nevertheless expressing regret that government could not accede to his request because of the constraints occasioned by government policy, which did not allow for the setting up of a tourist facility inside Chobe National Park.
“The minister also advised Nchindo to look for alternative land in the vicinity of the park,” said Kombani.
Subsequent to Seretse’s letter, he added, Joe Matome, by then a Debswana employee, wrote a letter expressing disappointment at the minister’s decision to refuse TDC permission to establish a hotel within Chobe National Park.
“Matome explained that Debswana is 50% owned by government, and has committed itself to exploring avenues of economic diversification in conjunction with the Botswana government. He effectively endorsed the TDC project as a Debswana project, under Debswana’s corporate development arm,” said Kombani.
Kombani also told the court that the postal addresses and telephone numbers in the letters written by both Nchindo and Matome were the same. He was the first witness to give evidence for the prosecution at the start of the marathon trial between the state and the late Loius Nchindo, Garvas Nchindo, Joe Matome, TDC, and Gloconda Holdings.