BTC Amendment Bill gets thumbs up

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

Botswana’s parliament has approved a Bill that seeks to amend the Botswana Telecommunication Corporation (Transition) Act 2008 to accommodate a clause that cites that the BTC Limited Employee Limited Scheme is a wholly citizen scheme.

The Minister of Transport and Communications, Nonofo Molefhi who submitted the Bill to the House under the Certificate of Urgency, noted that the allocation of the shares was to be clarified before the date of the listing occurred.

Molefhi added that the listing of the BTCL in the Botswana Stock Exchange was a subject of speculation was now set for the 22nd of February 2015.

“In 2006 Government made a decision to privatise BTC through listing it in the Stock Exchange. It was decided that 51 per cent of the BTC shares will be retained by government and 49 per cent reserved for the citizen.  To give effect to this decision, BTC (Transition) Act was promulgated in 2008 with the purpose of providing for the conversion of BTC into a limited liability company under the Companies Act,” he told the august house.

In addition, Molefhi noted that the 2008 Act under section 6 gave room for the establishment of scheme of Employee Share Ownership Plan (EOSP) where shares reserved for employees may be held.

In explaining this development, Molefhi was quoted as saying; “However, this section did not provide a distinction between citizen and non-citizen employees for purposes of accessing the shares reserved for employees through the scheme. This means that foreign employees of the organisation would be eligible to procure shares. This would be contrary to the government’s intention that BTCL shares are for the reserve of Botswana citizens only.”

In order to establish the EOSP exclusively for citizens, cabinet reconsidered the allotment of BTC shares in 2012 and directed that out of 49 per cent shares allocated to citizens up to five per cent of shares be allocated to citizen employees through an EOSP.

Recent media reports had pointed to the fact that a number of multinational companies had vied for the shares and some of these included the likes of Vodacom and Huawei. Huawei however, subsequently issued a statement denying any link to the BTCL IPO.

Another blow to the much touted IPO was the utterances by a section of the BTCL employees who said through a union that they felt side-lined during the preparation of the share offer although they are the uncontested beneficiary of the 5% share offer reserved for the company’s employees.

Positive developments in the house followed the promulgation of the amendments with, Kweneng East MP, Major General Moeng Pheto saying he full supported the Bill. His only qualm was the urgency with which the bill was presented to the House.

Another legislator, the Tswapong North constituency’s Prince Maele applauded the minister for the urgency saying the Bill was to address such issues as conditions of service.

Another MP and vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi representing the Moshupa constituency said Botswana had become wiser especially when citizens were given preferential treatment, saying at times local abused resources allotted them with some even selling the infrastructure allocated to them.

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