> Bakang Mhaladi
GABORONE – BOTSWANA Investment and Trade Centre (BITC), the country’s investment promotion agency, says the continuous rejection of work permits and visa applications for expatriates is a major hindrance to attracting investment into the country.
BITC chief executive officer, Letsebe Sejoe, recently told the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies that businesses are complaining about the government’s reluctance to issue fresh or renew permits.
The committee is an oversight body on parastatals accounts.
“Permits are just rejected and when you seek an explanation as to why it has been rejected, you are told that it has been rejected, nothing else. So we will never establish the truth.
“The outcry is that this country is not as open as it is often portrayed,” Sejoe told the committee.
The committee had sought to know why the permits were being rejected but Sejoe said he was equally in the dark.
He said some investors and employees, who have been in the country for as long as 30 years, have had their permit renewal applications rejected.
“This has forced companies to hold back on expansion and reinvestment due to uncertainty on what will happen next,” he said.
The official said the government does not recognise the impact of turning away investors. The parliamentary committee’s chairperson, Samson Guma Moyo said this should not be allowed to happen.
Equally, there have been many visa application rejections, where potential investors have been turned away.
Employees are also reporting a high number of rejections, without valid reasons even in sectors, particularly mining, where their skills are still required.
Recently, the government cancelled work permits of 18 Zimbabwe nationals employed at the diamond-producing mine, Letlhakane’s treatment and tailings plant.
The Zimbabweans had their 12-month work permits cut short, six months into the job, with the government saying it was satisfied that their skills were no longer required.
However, the employer contradicted the state’s position, arguing that it still needed the expatriate artisans, who included riggers. The treatment plant is a key strategic initiative for the mine.
The project is aimed at delivering sustained and profitable operations at Letlhakane mine post the mining phase.