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Ghetto to get a lifestyle mall

Kabelo Dipholo
TRIPLE IMPACT: Malele flanked by Mmoloki (l) and Golebanye (r)

– BR, Time Projects promise state-of-the-art mall

– Hotel, drive through and five-a-side pitches included

After several false dawns, the city of Francistown could soon have a new state-of-the-art mall courtesy of property developers: Time Projects and BR Property, a subsidiary of Botswana Railways.

The three signed a subscription and shareholder agreement last Thursday, paving the way for a ground-breaking expected in December.

It is envisioned the project will employ close to 300 people during construction and a further 250 upon completion.

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The idea of a Railpark mall in Francistown was first mooted back in 2014. However, the project endured several postponements owing to a suspected lack of interest from investors.

Eight years later and it seems the time is finally right.

The two companies have partnered to deliver what they described as a state-of-the-art lifestyle mall, north of the city’s Central Business District.

The undertaking, whose first phase will cost P100 million, has been allocated six hectares on a BR plot measuring 11.6 hectares – an area that for many years was Rhinos Football Club’s training ground.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, BR Properties Managing Director, Utlwanang Golebanye revealed they have land in major parts of the country which they intend to exploit for business opportunities.

Their pilot project was the P350 million Railpark Mall in Gaborone, which opened for business in October 2011 and is widely regarded as a success.

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“We intend to put these pieces of land to good use by commercialising them to generate income for BR and reduce over reliance on government,” explained Golebanye.

The MD further predicted the envisaged property will transform the second city’s economy, while also generating returns for Botswana Railways, BR Properties and Time Projects.

“We’re looking at a ground-breaking in December or early January 2023 if everything goes according to plan,” he said, although he did not go into detail on exactly what that plan entailed.

As well as retail outlets, the new mall will include a service station, a drive-through restaurant, hotel facilities and five-a-side football pitches.

“It is going to be a lifestyle mall, targeting residents and many who use the Francistown/Maun road from neighbouring villages,” said Golebanye, adding they intend to reserve space for public transport to help decongest the bus rank.

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Time Projects Director, Mmoloki Morolong expressed excitement to be partnering with Botswana Railways on such a key investment.

“We know the Botswana property market well. Time Projects has footprints across the country in areas such as Gantsi, Lobatse, Serowe, Letlhakane and Francistown,” stated Morolong, whose company was established in 1986 and also has interest in Zambia.

In her remarks, Acting Botswana Railways Chief Executive Officer, Chelesile Malele said, while their core business is rail transport, they have BR Properties to manage projects.

She told gathered journalists that through BR Properties, they’ve established Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) to manage the day-to-day operations of the malls.

“This is necessary to isolate financial risk. At Railpark Mall in Gaborone the SPV was JTTM Properties, and here in Francistown they’ve opened Rail Diamond which is a partnership between BR Properties, Time Projects and Botswana Railways,” she disclosed.

Malele noted that building malls is a trend with rail administrators.

“If you look at South Africa, Park Station is owned by PRASA [Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa], in Zimbabwe NRZ [National Railways of Zimbabwe] has mall in Bulawayo and Harare and in Zambia it’s the same thing.”

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The acting CEO said the malls diversify income and enhance their borrowing capacity, ultimately reducing their dependence on government.

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