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New Platjan Bridge needs P221 million extra

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.”

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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