In a strange twist, the leadership and residents of Palapye are in total darkness regarding the stalling of the Shanghai Fengyue Glass company project set up in their village to produce float glass sheets.Both tribal and political leadership told this publication that they have not been updated on the project’s progress despite the hype that had been generated around it over the past three years.
In 2007, the government of Botswana and the Chinese company decided to set up the float glass production line in the village, and projections were that over a thousand people would find jobs at the production line with a capability of producing 450 tonnes of the float glass in a day.
Construction at the site has since stalled, while investigations have been instituted into the irregularities bedeviling both the company and the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), the government’s investment arm funding the project.
Like the general public that spoke this past Saturday to Botswana Guardian in Palapye, the village tribal leader, Kgosi Raditanka Ntebele expressed disdain at government’s deafening silence on the project’s progress, despite promises of the manna that would come with the project for the people of the village. He said while the start of the project was done in consultation with the village authorities, who even attended the ground-breaking ceremony, it was amazing that now that progress has stalled, no one is coming back to say what is happening.
At a kgotla meeting in the village early this year, President Ian Khama even assured Kgosi Ntebele and his curious community that despite the investigations into the company, the project would still continue as planned.
“Not even the political figures in the village have said anything as they too appear to be in the dark as to the real reason the project has been halted. In the meantime, the people are also asking questions,” he told Botswana Guardian. Equally baffled was Jordan Makhura, the councilor for Morupule Ward in the village, where the production plant is built.
Makhura says while they had visitations from even the BDC at a council session to assure them of the construction and continuation of the project during its early days, it was shocking that the BDC could not have the same courtesy to come again and inform them on what is currently prevailing. “They told us not to believe what was written in the papers and that nothing was going to stop the project.
Now it has stopped but the only information is the same that we get from newspapers. While we accept that there could be problems, we expect the government to at least keep us posted on the matter so that we can also respond to the curiosity of our people,” he said.
Lotsane Ward councilor Lesego Setlhare says there had been excitement in the village, with some already investing in some projects and businesses they had thought would benefit from presence of the glass production plant.
Outsiders were also buying plots in the village to ready themselves for both the plant and the international science and technology university (BUIST), which too, has been cut short. Area Member of Parliament Moiseraela Goya says although he shares the disappointment of his constituents at the turn of events, he believes the project will one day rise again and fulfill the promises that came with it.
“Government will not rest on its laurels to allow a project of this magnitude to collapse. As we speak, some people are putting their heads together to forge a way forward and once this has been achieved, people will get to know about it,” he said.
On the issue of lack of consultation, BDC Board Chairperson Blackie Marole admitted that in the midst of all confusion surrounding the matter, there might have been the unfortunate omission of engaging with the Palapye leadership, but committed to ensuring that the error is corrected as soon as he returns to Gaborone this week. Government has already been drained of P500 million to set up the stalled project.