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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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P500 million Tshesebe-Masunga road dispute lands in Court

25th January 2021

The Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road estimated costs stand at P500 million, the tender which was awarded to Bash Carriers in 2017 has not taken shape four years after the project was commissioned.

Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road when it was commissioned, was estimated at P500 million in value, this included construction of 22.50km of the two lane carriage way and 28.70km of access roads including associated bridge works, cross drainage works, storm water drainage works and relocation of services.

When it was first tendered the contract was awarded to Bash Couriers but was terminated after it was alleged that the contractor failed to deliver. It was said that Bash Couriers Construction Company was lagging behind schedule.

This publication visited the sites of Tshesebe-Masunga road last year December and it was evident that the project was at a standstill as deserted machinery on site could be seen with the gravel road also in a devastating state.

Information revealed then indicated that there had been issues of mining rights for aggregates, availability of structural engineers and manpower and a criteria for awarding tender to the specific company when the contract was terminated.

In 2016, as part of the ESP projects, government funded the 25 kilometres (Km) road project to link Tshesebe and Masunga.

Construction of the road, which also connects some of the villages within the district, commenced early in 2016 and was scheduled to be completed within 18 months.

The company had done nothing when their contract was terminated with allegations that it never had the capacity to carry out the project in the first place.

The major ESP project had ultimately robbed a lot of people potential employment when it succumbed to termination.

It was then that the government restarted the tendering process.

The project was awarded to Bango Trading Company and Zebra Construction in a joint venture at a value of P319 Million Pula.

However, information reaching this publication from the Ministry of Transport and Communications confirms that indeed there are no current works carried out on the Tshesebe Masunga road.

Responding to a questionnaire sent to them by this publication through their Public Relations Officer Doreen Moapare, the Ministry indicated that the Tshesebe-Masunga road project is before the courts therefore their response is limited by such a pending outcome.

“As a background the project had been awarded to Bash Carriers at a contract sum of P400, 044,365.68 to begin the works in May 2017 and complete the project in January 2019. Scopes of works included 51.2km main road inclusive of seven access roads. Due to non-performance, Bash Carriers contract was terminated on the 25th of September 2018. ”

Further, Moapare indicated that upon termination of Bash Carriers, a process began to ensure that the development project completes.

Five companies went for a selective tendering bid which she listed as; Lobkom Investments (Pty) Ltd, Landmark (Pty) Ltd and Truck Hire (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, ACE /Excavator Hire (Pty) Ltd and Asphalt Botswana (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, Cul De Sac, Bango Trading and Zebra Construction Joint venture.

“Some companies have since queried the results of the tendering adjudication landing the issue in the courts. We are currently awaiting a ruling expected in February/March 2021, and this will determine the course of action thereafter,” concluded Moapare.

At one point last year, reports indicated that Bango Trading Construction Company had faced raiding by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security, Botswana Police and Botswana Unified Revenue Services, with allegations that there was an emerging pattern targeting overscheduled construction companies with powerful political connections.

Bango Trading Managing Director, Moffat James, was reported to have had close links to former DIS Director Isaac Seabelo Kgosi. Bango Trading and Estate Construction Company which has obtained close to P 1, 5 billion government contracts under former President Lt Gen Ian Khama has been the subject of a parliamentary probe due to the many government contracts awarded to them.

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.

JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.

This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.

“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.

This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.

“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.

UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.

In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.

This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.

Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”

Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”

UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.

Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.

“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview
UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.

The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.

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