Setback for BTCL IPO as workers cry broke

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

The 5 percent of the shares from the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) might as well go unclaimed if the prevailing status of the company’s workers remains unabated. With the Privatisation of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited privatisation nearing completion, employees claim they do not have the funds to buy the five percent of shares allocated to them.

According to BTCL Workers Union member Kewetse Busumane most employees cannot afford to buy shares offers in the impending IPO and they are not even sure how the process is going to work for them.

“Most employees cannot afford to buy the shares. Maybe the top management employees are the only ones who can afford but finances limit most of us.

“Management has addressed us but they are still not sure about a lot of things.  We have been told that the government is responsible for providing information to us but the government also says we have to deal with our management."

Busumane said as an the workers’ organisation, they have talked to the management and written letters to the Public Enterprise Evaluation Privatisation Agency (PEEPA) and the Ministry of Transport and Communications seeking explanations on the IPO but could not get any satisfactory answers.

Under the BTCL Initial public offer (IPO), the government is selling 49 percent of its shares to the public, of which five percent has been reserved for BTC employees.

On the contrary, the BTCL Public Relations Manager, Golekanye Molapise said BTCL management had briefed the workers Union and staff on how the company is proposing to assist them to participate in the IPO. “Consideration is being given to salary and gratuity advances. BTCL management is also in discussions with commercial banks to advance loans to employees to enable them to buy shares,” said Molapise.

He said all employees are made aware of spot announcements and major decisions concerning the IPO specifically through internal communication channels.

“A detailed road show and media schedule will be available as soon as all logistics are in place to further enhance and raise public awareness on how to participate in the BTCL IPO”, he said.

During a previous media briefing, the company’s Legal advisor, Rizwan Desai said the BTCL IPO is a difficult process as it is a government project and involves two ministries, the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the ministry of Finance and Development Planning therefore the process requires extensive work and it takes time to process the required information. “This is a large corporation, it is a process, there are steps that need to be achieved so it needs time,” he said.

BTCL was formed ahead of the separation of the incumbent operator, Botswana Telecommunications Corporations (BTC) into two entities incorporated under the companies Act, being BTCL and Botswana Fiber Networks (BoFiNet) which is wholly owned by the government. For many years, BTC has been Botswana's largest supplier of fixed-line and associated communications services, and it has been providing telephony and other products to urban and rural centres across the country. 

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