Former Francistown mayor, Iqbal Ebrahim strongly beliefs that the second city has great potential in turning into an industrial hub of note in the north side of the country.
In a wide range interview with The Patriot on Sunday, the 68 year old renowned businessman notes that Francistown is strategically positioned as it is the gateway to neighbouring countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe and to some extent, Namibia. By its proximity to the aforementioned SADC countries, Ebrahim is of the view that the city has readily available market for products that could be manufactured in Francistown. "Another competitive advantage that Francistown has is the huge chunks of industrial and commercial plots at Gerald Estates that are currently un-utilized," said the former Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) president which is now known as Business Botswana.
Ebrahim holds that for Francistown to be able to attract investors to come and set up in it, the leadership should be investor friendly adding that currently it is still a bit cumbersome for expatriate investors to be given resident and work permits. He admits that progress has been made since President Mokgweetsi Masisi ascended to the presidency, in attempting to relax laws that deter potential investors. "I must admit that we have made strides in trying to review such laws that scare away potential investors but more needs to be done," the ruling Botswana Democratic Party stalwart who became both Francistown mayor and deputy mayor for two decades pointed out.
The sexagenarian took a swipe at the current crop of political leaders in the second city stating that they are not passionate about developing Francistown. He argued that the current political leadership in Francistown are self-centred and do not care about the welfare of the residents. "Today's politicians are greedy; they are only concerned about enriching themselves at the expense of the electorates who elected them to such positions. They only care about their sitting allowances at the expense of the suffering majority. During our time as the leadership of the city, we received P74 per day as sitting allowance but we achieved great milestones for Francistown. We played a major role in establishment of locations such as Area W and Satellite," he explained. He decried that today's politicians do not value consulting their electorates adding that some of them are yet to hold even a single kgotla meeting since being elected into office.
According to Ebrahim, consultation is an integral part of modern day democracy. "How will you advocate for developments for your ward or constituency if you do not consult your electorates to find out what is bedevilling them?" he quizzed. Ebrahim who is also the board member of Botswana Ash reasoned that politicians need to go back to the basics and start consulting their voters to accelerate development.
He said when he comes up with suggestions on how to expedite developments in Francistown, the leadership gives him a cold shoulder on suspicions that he wants to enrich himself. He added that, he once suggested that government should construct a railway line from Sowa Town to Kazungula to transport goods to neighbouring countries but his proposal was shot down but he is surprised that the railway line will be constructed in the near future with exorbitant costs.