Worried about what he said is likely to happen to the on-construction steel manufacturing plant in Selebi Phikwe, the area Member of Parliament, Dithapelo Keorapetse this past week moved swiftly to interrogate the process relating to the setting up of the steel manufacturing company, Pula Steel and Castings Manufacturing (Pty).
Selebi Phikwe is expected to house a steel manufacturing plant following a ground breaking ceremony held in July this year that paved way for the commencement of construction of the facility aimed at reversing the fortunes of the ailing mining town.
On Thursday in parliament, Keorapetse asked the minister responsible for Trade whether investors or directors of the Pula Steel Manufacturing Company have any experience of steel manufacturing or manufacturing in general.
In his response, junior Minister at Trade, Sadique Kebonang said that only one of the four investors of Pula Steel and Castings Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd, Vermas has previous experience in steel manufacturing.
Investors in Pula Steel and Castings Manufacturing include BCL which owns 50.5 percent stake, CEDA 26 percent, Indian investors known only as Vermas owns 17 percent while a citizen owned company, Wealth Generation Holdings (Pty) Ltd holds 6.5 percent.
The company is expected to be a fully integrated steel manufacturing company in the country and will invest P89 million on the project that will create 1000 direct jobs at full production.
“Vermas is the technical partner and is, therefore responsible for all technical matters related to the project. In addition the Chief Executive Officer has vast experience in steel manufacturing acquired from running a steel casting plant in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe from 2002 to 2010,” Sadique said Thursday.
However Keorapetse has expressed his dissatisfaction about the answear given by the minister as he maintains that there is need for government to give an assurance that, “The project will not be another Palapye Glass project or Morupule B”.
He insist that when it comes to project delivery by the government, past experience has shown that the government lost lot money by partnering with foreign investors that did not have required knowledge to set up targeted firms.
“Take for example the Palapye Glass project which has turned out to be a monument. We do not want history to repeat itself thus we need assurance from the government that this project, unlike Palapye Glass Project or Morupule B will take off as planned.”
Fengyue Glass Company, a controversial Chinese company had partnered with the government investment arm, Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) in 2007 to establish a glass manufacturing plant in Palapye.
The company has since been liquidated after the project was not completed. BDC lost almost half a billion Pula in the project that would have created hundreds of jobs producing approximately 450 tonnes of float glass per day.
Despite this, Sadique maintains that it is neither a requirement nor a prerequisite for an investor or director of as company in any sector or business to have experience or expertise in the area in which they wish to invest in.
“The required expertise and experience can be sourced from the market.”