Botswana, SA ministers sign transport infrastructure agreements

SHARE   |   Sunday, 06 July 2014   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang

Botswana’s minister of Transport and Communications Nonofo Molefhi will on Monday sign a number of agreements with South Africa’s Transport Minister, Dipuo Peters that will see the two countries working together on a number of important infrastructure projects. The Upgrade of the Road and Bridges Infrastructure Development Initiatives between the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Botswana entails cooperation in all designs, construction, financing, rehabilitation, maintenance and, if required, the upgrading of the road network at the various points of entry between the two countries. The signing ceremony will take place in Pretoria.

Agreement on the Upgrade of the Road and Bridges Infrastructure Development Initiative
The projects undertaken are considered funded projects as there is a budget set aside for implementation. This MoA provides for a legal framework to coordinate and ensure completion of these projects. Representatives from the South African Roads Agency (SANRAL) have been in consultations with their counterparts in Botswana during the course of 2013. The consultations focused on the Environmental Impact Assessment and the project plans associated with the Notwane Bridge and the necessary improvements at the Ramotswa Bridge. During the last consultations, the parties agreed to include the various project plans as attachments to the Agreement. 

Upgrade of the Road and Bridges Infrastructure Development Initiative
The Regional Action Agenda Report was developed in March 2007 with the intention of identifying gaps, prioritising projects and thereby promoting regional integration and development. The document is a practical action agenda which identifies initiative and projects that should be embarked upon to ensure regional economic development and integration. This will improve the competiveness of the Region through reduced transport costs and minimize delays in the movement of goods and commuters. As signatories to the SADC Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology, South Africa is thus compelled to ensure efficient access to neighbouring SADC member states to achieve continental and regional transport integration which facilitates economic development.

Notwane River Bridge Project/Ramotswa Bridge Construction (Swartkopfontein)
The Ramotswa bridge is one of the projects that are being implemented as part of the programme to upgrade bridges and river crossings connecting the two countries. The project scope entails reconstruction of the bridge and preliminary designs have been completed. The principles of the design have been previously agreed with the Botswana Roads Department and that is what will be implemented. To demonstrate South Africa’s commitment, R20million was set aside for completion of the project and SANRAL has a dedicated project manager based at the Northern Region managing the process on the ground.

Swartkopfontein is a non-commercial border post which caters mainly for light vehicles, passengers and pedestrians. Currently 250 vehicles and 460 people pass through the Swartkopfontein Border Post in both directions on a daily basis. Official concessions are required for the transport of commercial goods across the border. The border post serves as a convenient, economic route between South Africa and Botswana, particularly to Zeerust in South Africa and Gaborone, Lobatse and Ramotswa in Botswana. The border post is closed for periods during the rainy season when the existing concrete drift river crossing through the Notwane River is submerged. This border is ideally positioned between the commercial border posts of Kopfontein and Ramatlabama, and will relieve the pressure of traffic on these border posts if it can be upgraded to be usable on a regular basis.

The border post is to be upgraded to allow for the uninterrupted use of the facility and to provide safe conditions for pedestrians and non-motorised vehicles while crossing the border. The bridge is to be positioned such that it would have minimum effect on the river flow when the river comes down in flood conditions. The existing surfaced road and parking area at the South African Border post offices are to be repaired and resurfaced and all storm water drainage systems are to be upgraded to accommodate the increased flow.

The conclusion and signature of the agreement will assist in ensuring the projects identified in the agreement ie Ngotwane River bridge / Rammotswa ridge Construction (Swarkopfontein) are implemented as agreed by the relevant stakeholders. The implementation of these projects will also allow for the un-interrupted use of the facilities and to provide safe conditions while crossing the respective borders.