The Observer: Time for SPEDU to wake up!

SHARE   |   Monday, 17 October 2016   |   By Simon Gabathuse
SPEDU CEO, Dr Mokubung SPEDU CEO, Dr Mokubung

Except from recruiting James Mathokgwane and rebranding, we have never really heard anything of the Selebi Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU). There is nothing wrong with that. It is time to wake SPEDU up so that she takes her rightful place in the economy of Selebi-Phikwe and the entire region. This is her role and duty that she was born to execute. She has not been doing that as she was being disturbed by the presence of an old woman by the name of BCL mine. Now that the old woman is dead; SPEDU must rise and do her job. Old women as we all know are allegedly witches. They terrorise everyone and make things impossible for all of us. Children don’t go to villages anymore because they fear to be bewitched by old women. Interestingly, these old women loose eye sight during the day but regain it in the speed of light at night. It is only when one hears of the death of the old woman who has been bewitching him or her that one then goes back to the village to rebuild a life. That is when one then decides to build a house, to take care of siblings, livestock and fields. This is the point where SPEDU is; she has should resume the role of a care taker.

Upon formation, the Government of Botswana recorded that the SPEDU Regional Economic Development Agency comes as a result of a number of initiatives that were undertaken to diversify the regional economy from mining. We were told on record that these initiatives are inclusive of the Selebi Phikwe Development Programme of 1985, the Selebi Phikwe Regional Development Unit of 1987 which culminated in the Financial Assistance Policy (FAP) and the Special Incentive Package. Government was by telling us all these obviously taking the moment to assure the nation that research has been done on what is of key element in giving the region life after mining. It is on record that by the year 2000, the Selebi-Phikwe Diversification Committee was established following a private sector led initiative. In 2006, a consultancy firm, CSA, was appointed to carry out a study on Regional Economic Diversification following the failure of the FAP and the Special Incentive Packages. The main recommendation of the CSA study was the establishment of a Unit to coordinate the Diversification Programme of Selebi Phikwe and the region, hence the birth of the Selebi-Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU). This unit is under the administration of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and it has been set up to spearhead the implementation of the economic regeneration programme for Selebi-Phikwe and surrounding regions. Basically, Selebi-Phikwe is now at the mercy of Finance Minister Kenneth Mathambo.

Though some want to play ignorant, the Government said then that SPEDU has been set up to secure a long-term survival of Selebi-Phikwe and the surrounding regions beyond the closure of the BCL mine and smelter through actions and initiatives which may bring sustainable new employment and investment to the region and hence broaden and underpin its economic and social base. We can all hope that the skills needed by SPEDU projects are those the miners have. The Government put it up to the public that SPEDU Regional Economic Development Agency has been set up to archive the furthering of economic development and regeneration of the Selebi-Phikwe region and to promote business efficiency and competitiveness in the region. This to be done has to be coupled with the promotion of inward investment and trade facilitation so as to promote employment. The 6000 miners who find themselves in the street will not be wrong to expect jobs from this long made promise. We were told upon its formation that it is the role and duty of SPEDU to enhance the development and application of skills relevant to employment in the region with a number of feasibility studies looking into possible diversification industries.

The reader will recall that feasibility studies on: Tourism and Leisure, Agriculture, and Heavy Engineering were undertaken. These studies have recommendations that guide SPEDU on projects that can be of economic benefit to the region and the time is now for SPEDU to wake up and get to work. At least whilst you were still peacefully sleeping, the recruitment process went on and the rebranding was carried out effectively. But the rebranding is not that we are interested in right now. We are interested in bread and butter issues. It is your chance to arise and shine. Your intervention is much needed at this hour going forward. We need your intervention in all the sectors, not only in mining. The closure of the mine affected all businesses including hospitality sector which was used to host a number of important meetings and conferences of the mine. Wake SPEDU, wake up, it’s your time to shine.

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