It doesn’t rain but pours for the beleaguered Water Utilities Corporation (WUC); as yet another shutdown on the North South Carrier is expected, next week.
The NSC 1 pipeline has lately been prone to excessive shutdowns that often lead to the Greater Gaborone areas running on dry taps for days and sometimes effectively rolling into weeks.
According to highly placed sources at the WUC, “next week Friday the NSC will be shut down again.” During this period the Greater Gaborone area will experience increased supply outages.
“The shutdown is meant to ensure proper interconnection in the system that is currently done for the refurbishment of the pipeline that was laid in place of the GRP pipeline,” a WUC official told the WeekendPost.
It is understood that there is a 26km pipeline made of material called GRP (Glass-fibre Reinforced Polyester) – is the weakest part of the NSC pipeline. These pipes made of centrifugally cast glassfiber reinforced plastics (GRP) which consist of a combination of thermosetting plastics such as for example unsaturated polyester or vinyl ester resins, chopped glass fibers and reinforcing agents. GRP are generally of low standard.
The part, which is 26 km out of the 365 km NSC 1 is said to be problematic. “It has a lot of leakages because of GRP which is essentially a weak material. It’s no longer helpful and therefore requires to be replaced,” he said.
This publication has gathered that the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MMEWR) has replaced the weak link with a steel pipeline. “It now has to interconnect to the NSC 2 pipeline which is currently under construction. In other words we have to move from the weakest link to the new pipeline made of steel.” “The shutdown is meant to ensure that we transfer from NSC 1 weak link to the new one made of steel.”
It will not be the first time the pipeline is closed. Recently, on 4th September 2015, the pipeline was shut to repair a leakage around the Bonwapitse area. The pipeline also “experienced a pipe burst upstream” at Palapye earlier in May, and WUC had to shut it down to carry out the necessary repairs.
On January 7, 2014 the corporation also closed the pipeline to allow for repairs following another burst. The shutdowns have often resulted in periods of no water supply in the Greater Gaborone area, outside the water rationing schedule.
The North South Carrier Scheme I (NSC I) is a pipeline that transports water from Letsibogo Dam to the South of the country and supplies Palapye, Mahalapye, Serowe and the Greater Gaborone area which includes essentially the Southern part of Botswana.
Information gathered also suggests that as from the 9th of March this year the newly commissioned Dikgatlhong Dam has also been supplying water to these areas through the same pipeline, relieving the Letsibogo Dam.
However the immaculate source at WUC pointed out that the shutdown was about interconnections and fixing certain leakages. “This time around we want to allow the contractor doing the parallel line to switch from the current to the new one. We already have NSC 1 while NSC 2 is still under construction. The 26 km pipeline has been brought up as part of NSC 2. We are building a parallel 26 km, which is part of NSC 2.”
The WUC Corporate Communications Manager, Matida Mmipi who was not immediately available for comment at press time, is expected to address the media before the NSC 1 shutdown scheduled for next week. Future of Molatedi dam supply to Botswana “uncertain”
Meanwhile, more water woes are expected as Molatedi Dam in South Africa, which has been supplying 26ml/day to Botswana is drying up. The dam is now said to be supplying reduced amounts of 4.8 millilitres per day. Recent Media reports have alluded to officials in that country considering cutting off supply to Botswana.
Weekend Post has turned up information that the WUC has been in a series of meetings with their South African counterparts to discuss the matter further. “They are constantly reviewing the amount that is coming to Botswana and it will not be a surprise that they will cut water to Botswana,” the WUC official told this publication.
WUC Board Chairperson, Matome Malema told this publication that Molatedi dam is still supplying to Botswana and they have not cut ties with them. He said the agreement they have with them still stands. “As far as I know, they did not cut ties, our agreement is that when the dam goes down they reduce the amount they give us,” Malema maintained.
According to CCTV Africa, South Africa is set to cut off Botswana from receiving water supplements after Molatedi Dam dropped to extremely low levels. The dam is located near Zeerust in North-West South Africa. For years Gaborone has been receiving water from South Africa but an agreement dating back to 1988 required that when the dam level dropped by 26 per cent, supply would be cut.
Paul Bender to replace Leornard Nxumalo at WUC?
International media reports have been abuzz with reports that former Cleveland Public Utilities Director Paul Bender has resigned effective October 7, and linking him with WUC in Botswana.
Bender is alleged to have asserted that his work in Cleveland was both challenging and rewarding, but he “has an opportunity to help the Republic of Botswana ‘consolidate all water and waste water services to the national level.’”
However, the Weekend Post source said he was not aware whether Bender will be employed full time at the corporation, saying, “Bender has always been advising WUC on how to structure the tariff.”
He stated: “he has been around to advice on tariff framework – how to structure it, how you charge water to customer in terms of volumes, and if you consume a certain volume how much you charge, he is an expert in the area.”
Bender, who is said to have received $200,000 a year as utilities director, was permitted to remain an outside consultant and take unpaid leaves of absence to do work for other clients, including Botswana.
“His work as a consultant and then director was critical to improving customer service in the Division of Water, the implementation of the automated meter reading program and putting the Division on track to be able to potentially not raise water rates for five years beginning in 2015,” his former employer mayor Frank Jackson wrote on North East Ohio media Group.
Jackson hired Bender as chief of public utilities in March 2013, after he had spent two years working as a consultant to oversee sweeping improvements to a Water Department plagued by billing problems, staffing inefficiencies and complaints of poor customer service.
Under Bender's tutelage, calls are now answered more promptly, bills are timely, and the collections rate has spiked to more than 99 percent, the city has reported. “The department is installing an automated meter-reading system throughout its 72-community service area — which is expected to end the department's practice of estimating bills when faulty meters go undetected for an entire billing cycle.”
In Botswana, some believe that he was supposed to be Chief Executive Officer prior to the appointment of Swazi born Leornard Nxumalo. Nxumalo has a fixed contract that ends in March 2017 and those close to the top man say that its renewal is dependent on whether at its end, he or the employer will be willing to renew it. “He is doing his best at the beleaguered corporation but he may leave before 2017 as he has offers in his country Swaziland,” one source close to the CEO said.
Malema however dismissed the assertion as baseless and indicated to this publication in a brief interview that there was no how Bender would come to Botswana to replace the current CEO. “No, there is nothing like that, he won’t replace the CEO,” the board chairperson insisted.
He pointed out that Bender “is just a consultant, we have a relationship with him in that we used his services before, in terms of tariffs.”
Information gathered suggests that Bender's résumé boasts 30 years of financial management and consulting experience, including two decades as chief financial officer for municipal gas, water and wastewater utilities in Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va.
However it is still unclear which role he could assume at the struggling water corporation, should he come.
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.
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.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.