The chairman of the Selebi-Phikwe Multi-Cooperative Society in Botswana, southern Africa, has called on co-ops in the country to retain autonomy from the government.
Speaking at the society’s AGM, Tebogo Venson said the role of co-op societies is to eradicate poverty and better people’s lives.
Co-ops in Botswana are increasingly being liquidated and placed in the control of the Department of Co-operatives, under the Ministry of Investment. Mr Venson said Selebi-Phikwe would continue to take advice from the department, but that co-ops were not obliged to follow all suggestions blindly, stating that they should act independently. Selebi-Phikwe recently transformed from a consumer co-op to a multi-purpose co-op.
“Our belief is that with the support, guidance and leadership of the department, co-operative societies should strive to do well but many societies have been liquidated under their leadership. We therefore applaud the government for coming up with a transformation strategy to encourage co-operative societies to be autonomous,” he said.
“We will assess it and decide if the advice will benefit the society. The department should not run the co-operatives because this will show that they do not embrace the autonomy that the transformation strategy seeks to achieve,” he added.
He also encouraged co-ops to use the Botswana Cooperatives Association as a mouthpiece for the movement and used the example of his own co-operative to show how they can survive.
Selebi-Phikwe Cooperative Society, popularly known as Coop, was registered as a society in 1972. After suffering a near-collapse due to mounting debts in 2012, the board decided to move away from trading and supermarkets and instead into the more profitable business of estate development.
The society is now looking to move into new areas – such as manufacture and horticulture.
Mr Venson added: “We saw the need for the society to re-invent and reposition itself such that it remains relevant and competitive in the changing business environment.”