The new 110 million pula Platjan Bridge currently under construction and due for completion in August this year will thereafter remain a white elephant, information reaching Weekend Post suggests.
The bridge is being constructed across Limpopo River between South Africa and Botswana border. From the bridge, there is a 30 km bad road which leads into the country through Lekkerport hamlet into Bobirwa region which will render the bridge useless. As a result, the bad pathway needs an extra whooping 221 million pula to make it tarred for the multimillion pula bridge at the border to be more beneficial.
Government said to have promised to build the road donkey years ago and that they are dilly dallying on the matter and non-committal. An engineer on site confirmed to Weekend Post separately during media tour organised by SPEDU that he foresee the bridge, upon completion in 2 months turning into a white elephant. He said this in relation to the issue of broken-down road form the bridge to Lekkerport junction.
“Travelling from the nearest village from Platjan Bridge, is just a bad road. I bet the bridge will be useless, just to put it mildly,” the engineer stressed out. In addition SPEDU Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Mokubung Mokubung concurred with the engineer as he raised the concern “a thirty (30) kilometre stretch of road, linking the bridge to serviced roads between Bobirwa and Selebi-Phikwe, and the rest of the Region – is not tarred.”
The CEO however continued: “an additional 221 million pula is (therefore) needed for the construction of the road. The cost breakdown has been submitted to Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI) for consideration,” though it appears government is not forthcoming. The bridge remains controversial as there has been a dispute also concerning the tender in relation to the construction of the bridge which dragged for some time before the actual project took off.
From 104 to 110 million: Bridge construction delayed, incurs more costs
Meanwhile, Gideon Msakwa, the resident engineer representing Wellfield Consulting Engineers, who was also the media tour guide, confirmed that the project has been delayed and obviously will incur more costs. When asked if the need for 3 months extension, from June to August this year, involve the cost over runs? Msakwa did not hesitate to avow: “Yes it does.” He continued: The project cost, at inception stage was 104 million pula, we budgeted for 104 million and now we are at 110 million pula.
The project engineer justified that they were supposed to finish in June this year but were delayed for 3 months running the project now to August. Which means our targeted completion date is 30th August 2019, he said. He explained that “for the interest of everybody, what delayed us was we had a little bit of logistics problems with regard to acquisition of the primary materials.
We ended up sourcing most of our construction material from the SA side and so literally we were down for 5 months. I would say ground breaking was in January but we started in May losing 5 months.” But as am speaking to you right now, we are standing on 85 million pula that is the value of the project which equates to the amount of work done to date, he said adding that the money will go to 110 million at the end of the project.
He stated that in terms of percentage wise, they covered about 80 to 85% as of now adding that “we are done with the main works. What we are doing now is called finishing down on the Botswana side and on the South African side.”
60 Batswana employed at the construction of Platjan Bridge
According to the Wellfield Consulting Engineer, the construction of the bridge project, attracted a staff complement of 60 Batswana including the contractors’ personnel and 4 supervisors (excluding 1 Zimbabwean). He explained the bridge construction as “a bilateral project by South Africa and Botswana.”
“This Platjan Bridge is at Botswana’s costs. This is a bilateral project and the agreement was that Botswana will construct the Platjan Bridge while SA on the other hand will construct the Ramotswa Bridge. So SA constructed the long constructed Ramotswa Bridge. We also now are completing our end of the equation,” he said. Apart from Platjan Bridge, there are 2 more bridges that are being constructed in the country, that is, Kwazungula; and the other one is at Mohembo.
Specifications of the multimillion pula Platjan Bridge project
The resident engineer representing Wellfield Consulting Engineers explained the project specifications: “It’s a 155 meters long bridge. The overall of the width of the bridge is 12.7 meters. From the existing bridge to the top of the new bridge is 7.5 meters. So all in all we are talking of a project, the overall length of the project is 560 meters.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.
“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).