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Office of the President (OP)
Response to Mmegi editorial "Merafhe misled Indian investors...
25/06/10

This Office notes with disappointment your newspaper's editorial of 24/06/10 bearing the outrageous allegation "Merafhe misled Indian Investors".

Notwithstanding your newspaper's opinion to the contrary, there should in our view be no uncertainty about Botswana's willingness to welcome genuine investment by outsiders in the local film industry, which we would hasten to add should not be misconstrued to necessarily mean Government funding for outside film projects.

We are, moreover, surprised at your editorial's further assertion that:

"The reality is that just recently the makers of MmaRamotswa movie had to leave the country to South Africa as it occurred to them that the Botswana government was ill-prepared to develop a viable local film industry"

Do we have to remind Mmegi that the MmaRamotswa series was filmed in Botswana only after its foreign producers were given, not without domestic controversy, considerable financial incentives to film here? As we recall this decision was much criticized in the pages of Mmegi; a fact which in itself is otherwise to be expected in a democracy such as ours that cherishes vigorous public debate about the use of public resources.

Since our initial partnership, the same producers have expressed interest in possibly engaging Government in additional projects, for which they have been invited to make their proposals, which are now awaited. From past dealings we would anticipate any such proposals will not be without cost and otherwise would have to be carefully considered.

What we can at this stage categorically state is that this Government has heretofore honoured all of its commitments to the company concerned.

As for the matter of a film commission, this is something that continues to have the support of Government. In this respect an attempt was made to appoint an interim Board last year that we are informed failed to receive appropriate applications. But the process has not been abandoned.

An initial Feasibility Study was also carried out on ways in which Botswana might become more film friendly through various financial and other incentives. While this issue is being followed up it should be understood that Government's capacity to assume new financial responsibilities, for that at the end of the day is what is being called for, has had to take a back seat over the last two years to meeting the severe and pressing demands of the economic downturn.

Finally, we wish to reaffirm that notwithstanding Mmegi's negative assumptions H.H. the Vice President was invited to hold what turned out to be very encouraging discussions in Mumbai last week with Film & Television Producers Guild of India and Board Members of the Film City. These two bodies collectively represent the movers and shakers of the "Bollywood" Film fraternity, which happens to be the world's largest film production grouping.

As was previously reported to the press, the Bollywood invitation came about after the visit earlier this year of the Indian Vice President, who was impressed by the visual splendor of Botswana.

As was also reported from this Office to the local press, including Mmegi, and has otherwise been published in media throughout India and elsewhere, during last week's consultations the Botswana Tourism Organisation also stepped up to the plate with assurances that they will be in a position to provide easy access and services at subsidized rates to Indian film crews interested in filming there. In widely published remarks its business representative at the meeting was thus quoted as saying that:

"We are ready to provide logistical arrangements and convenience in getting filming permits. We will also provide facilities at subsidized rates. Although the subsidized amounts are not fixed at the moment, but that can be taken care of when we speak to the film producers concerned. It will depend upon the magnitude of the film."

This is an example of some of the quick wins that we can and shall move forward with.

Finally, this Office can confirm that only this week it received a petition from local various local film producers, apparently including at least one newspaper editor, whose concerns are appreciated and shall be addressed as soon as possible.

Thank you

 

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