Selebi Phikwe Economic Development Unit (SPEDU), an arm formed of a raft of interest groups aimed at securing a sustainable development of Selebi Phikwe town and its surrounding area beyond the mining life, decried lack of funding that is threatening existence of the fledgling organisation.
SPEDU was born two years ago as a squeal to a European Union sponsored research that pointed out that up to 80,000 are likely to be affected by the closure of the country’s oldest copper/ nickel.
Although the mine directly employs around 4000 people, as many as 80,000, or more, within the Bobirwa, Mmadinare, Selebi Phikwe and Tswapong North have their lives somewhat linked to the mine.
The report had warned of a possible social unrest and the likelihood of a ghost town if billions of pula are not injected into the area in the form of investment.
“This afternoon I had thought to hear something different but it was just like business as usual. I had thought to hear something along the lines of business unusual,” the coordinator of SPEDU, Kago Moshahshane, told a two-day conference gathering in Selebi Phikwe on Thursday as he signaled the urgency of the matter.
“There is no money,” he said, adding that they needed to hear more since the European Union funding had dried up.
EU, which has been the chief sponsor of SPEDU out of the initial seed money of P 500 million, seems to be pulling back on the long term objective that is geared towards turning the region into “economic diversification model “ for Botswana and at the same time pushing it to the point of being the “bread basket” of the country if not playing a significant role in the region’s ambition of food security.
Finance and Development Minister, Kenneth Matambo, dampened expectation on Friday as he warned participants that they should be careful about hyping people’s expectation given that most of government projects had to be sidelined during the current financial year that is coming to an end in March.
“In as much as there are some good initiatives coming out of the conference we have to be careful that we can not implement everything at the same time.
“Projects that have been started have to be finished first such as Dikatlhong Dam. Looking at the practicality of things it will not be possible to do everything at the same time,” Matambo said.
Some of the things which the diversification of the town and the area is to work on are its image and present itself as the best place of doing business in the country.
The ambitious plan is partly borrowed from the Limpopo region in South Africa which has adopted a strategic vision that will help it stand out in South Africa.
The move will include the improvement of skills available within the region, reduction of unemployment and inequalities while at the same time improving on infrastructural development and access to services.