Consultants propose billion pula bridges to save animals
The proposed Trans Kalahari railway line has posed some environmental concerns that are set to add a substantial amount to the cost of the project. The route of the railway line is set to collide with route taken by migratory wildlife that move across borders in due season.
During Botswana’s summer months in the Kalahari with the onset of the summer rainfall thousands of migratory animals get on the move, closely followed by predators.
Three main wildlife corridors have been identified, linking the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is located in the Kalahari regions of both Botswana and South Africa and came into being as the official merger of the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa.
The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa was established in 1931 and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana was established in 1938. These parks shared a common border.
Since 1948 there has been informal cooperation agreements between conservation agencies in Botswana and South Africa to ensure the wellbeing of animals in both parks and to control development in the area.
The two parks were officially combined in 1999 and on 12 May 2000 the new Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was formally opened by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and Botswana's President Festus Mogae as the first Transfrontier Park in Africa.
During Botswana’s summer months the Kalahari bursts into life with the onset of the summer rainfall whereupon, thousands of migratory animals get on the move, closely followed by predators.
Project consultants, Australian firm, Aurecon have in a report handed over to Botswana Government late last year recommended the provision of access for the migratory animals by constructing the rail line on a low bridge or viaduct type structure on defined sections across the Schwelle.
This move is seen by the consultants as having several advantages, among them being that the bridges will; alleviate the need for significant earthworks; allow cross drainage can be constructed without adverse impact on the continuing movement of wildlife through these corridors. Estimated costs of the low bridges stand at US$600 million (P5,8 billion).
The railway line is expected to unlock the monetisation of Botswana’s coal resources, which are seen as a way to augment the depleting diamond resources that have been the mainstay of the country’s economy. Aurecon has given the resultant capital expenditure costs at a total of USD14.2 billion (P136 billion), comprising USD8.6 billion for electrified rail, and USD1.9 billion for above rail, and USD3.6 billion for the port.
Botswana possesses substantial coal deposits of 212 billion tonnes, the majority of which are low grade. Under favourable conditions, and until solar power becomes a feasible option for supplying base load electricity, this coal could be either exported or used for local regional electricity production and consumption. Electricity shortages impose a considerable constraint on economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa.
This strengthens the argument for local production of coal-fired electricity, especially if regional fossil fuel supplies are integrated in a technologically adept manner to ensure economies of scale. However, coal extraction for either export or local production is environmentally costly despite advances in technology.
The efficiency of the railway line coal supply chain is expected to be maximized by Copper resources in North West Botswana identified to boost TKR viability, Manganese ore resources in southern Botswana identified to add to the viability of the TKR, both these mineral developments (copper and manganese) will add to the diversification of Botswana’s GDP. Mineral resources along the TKR corridor in Namibia have the ability to further improve the viability of the TKR.
The TKR is contemplated as a “seamless international rail freight corridor”, consistent with the Bi-Lateral Agreement – the TKR is likely to precipitate a suite of inter-governmental agreements and legislation essential to provide a streamlined international rail system.
Operational efficiency would be greatly diminished if every train was required to stop at the border and effect Customs, Quarantine, and Security inspection hence the employment of Strategies and guidelines successful in other jurisdictions such as in Europe, will be implemented.
Enabling mirror legislation consistent with the intent of the Bi-Lateral Agreement signed by the governments of Namibia and Botswana, is required for consistency across the TKR value chain such as train inspections and infrastructure maintenance practices. With enabling legislation, locomotive and driver changes will not necessarily occur at the border – drivers may require special visa treatment as they cross the border at speed on board a train service.
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.