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Friday, 19 April 2024

The curse of P11 billion Morupule B plant


The government’s tactless behaviour when constructing the controversial and largely defunct multibillion Morupule B power plant cost burden, will now be carried by the citizens of Botswana who pay tax and electricity tariffs.

The Morupule B coal powered plant project cost government P11 billion and estimated to produce 600mega watts from its four units. The contentious plant was supposed to be complete by October 2012 but the defects rendered this impossible leading to cost overruns.

[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=”show” ihc_mb_who=”1,2,3″ ihc_mb_template=”1″ ]At the time of the tender award the cost was 7.4 billion but since the plant has been battling with frequent breakdowns, the cost ballooned by P4 billion.

The plant’s countless and repeated failures led to government moving swiftly to appoint a German company, STEAG Energy Services, to identify problems created by a Chinese company; China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) which constructed the plant and rectify them.

However it appears that the problems are not yet solved as the plant is still currently experiencing faults time and again. It is understood that this created a burden for taxpayers which they were not supposed to have had the government been cautious when handling the construction of the mega project.

Notwithstanding the intention of the power plant was to position Botswana to be energy self-sufficient with a possibility of exporting some to neighbouring Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) countries.

The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) were shocked to learn this week that there is a direct relationship between the current high electricity costs and the ongoing problems at Morupule B.

“Yes, there is a relationship between the two,” Mmetla Masire, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security confirmed.

He explained that there is a relationship obviously because it is an operational cost and the tariffs are supposed to support the operation cost of the organisation.

“So if the organisation (BPC) is not effective and not efficient due to the carelessness by government in the Morupule B, then yes, they will trickle down towards the overall cost of operation that will then have to be supported through tariff structure, and the tariff will be justified,” he asserted.

Morupule B down again; three of the four units are malfunctioning

Masire also highlighted that they are still having some challenges with Morupule B as it is currently down, as it has largely been since construction. “Morupule B is not able to operate with all four units. Generally we are operating with one or one and half units or thereabout,” the PS pointed out.

According to Masire, Morupule A fortunately is operating properly since its overhaul. He continued: so we use generally about 600 megawatts and we import on a continuous bases 150 megawatts from South Africa, while adding that they have had challenges, as they are still importing 40% of Botswana’s power requirements.

“Imports are also a big factor as we can’t generate to the capacity we would have wanted as Morupule is malfunctioning,” he pointed out.

BPC to increase electricity tariffs again next year

The Morupule B defects have led to Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) taking steps to the process of the next tariffs increase by BPC. PS in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security further confirmed that; “So yes there will be more tariffs.”

“The next increase is likely next year April (2021), that is next financial circle. BERA is running the process. They will ultimately determine a reasonable tariff for BPC. BPC has submitted their request,” he stated.

Masire’s justification is that the power utility is not charging at a cost reflective tariff, so over a period of time it will surely increase tariffs until it reaches a point where it is more cost reflective.

Meanwhile, he reasoned that the previous 22 percent tariff increase effected earlier in April was because it had to be in place for the financial year which started in that month and the increase has nothing to do with COVID-19 at the time.

Government abandons move to sell Morupule B plant

While it is clear that at some point, there was some discussion of possibly selling the plant, Masire revealed that the negotiations with potential investors were not successful and therefore “we couldn’t accede to their offer.”

“As far as I know we are not in discussion with anybody or selling or are we out in market seeking people to buy,” he said adding that “we have a detail program of how we are going to repair the plant at the cost of the contract to put it back to operation.”

Who led the country into the power chaos of giving CNEEC thumps up?

According to Masire, the evaluation team that was evaluating the tender had satisfied themselves that the Chinese company (CNEEC) had experience in terms of the work they have done elsewhere.

“But specifically to how many power plants they have built elsewhere I have to apologise I do not have the answers to those questions but I am aware they had built plants and the evaluation team was satisfied from a technical point.”

It is understood that even the Chinese Embassy in Botswana had actually raised red flags and expressed concerns that they did not trust that the company can do the works of such a magnitude as they lacked necessary experience to construct the power plant.[/ihc-hide-content]

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”










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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.


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