Although Choppies Supermarket is a public company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE), government has refused to divulge the names of people/entities that have rented out their properties to the retail giant, saying Choppies contractors are not public listed entities.
When responding to a Parliamentary question last week, Minister of Trade and Industry Vincent Seretse said he felt constrained to disclose the owners of outlets that Choppies has rented, as well as the monthly rentals paid for each property.
“This is contractual, personal, private and confidential business information which also involves third parties. Although Choppies is a public company, its contractors are not public companies,” he said.
Seretse was responding to a supplementary question posed by opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Member of Parliament Dithapelo Keorapetse. Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) MP, Noah Salakae had earlier moved a parliamentary question raising concerns about alleged devious and skewed deals between the retail giant and ‘big shots’ associated with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
In response to the Minister’s explanation, Salakae said he was not surprised as such a revelation could expose a number of BDP members who are engaged in questionable dealings with Choppies. For his part, UDC MP Haskins Nkayigwa said he was surprised that Seretse had hit a u-turn as he has previously revealed the owners of the property rented out by Choppies in Block 8.
“Every case has its own time merits and demerits,” responded Seretse.
Seretse also refused to reveal the names of suppliers who service Choppies’ 72 outlets nationwide, save to say that the retailer obtains its goods and services from local and regional suppliers. This was disputed by Salakae, who argued that Choppies favors suppliers of goods and services from outside the country, especially South Africa.
“Madam Speaker I do not want to engage in a bilateral conversation. This is the information I received from the proprietors themselves. Choppies is a retail supermarket and therefore does not produce any goods internally. All products that are sold in these outlets are bought from third parties locally and from the outside the country,” countered Seretse.
He added that Choppies had undertaken to support any individuals, especially the youth, who come together to form a society or cooperatives, by purchasing their produce and services.