FNB Acacia

Minister owns up over the Platjaan Bridge

SHARE   |   Monday, 18 April 2016   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
Minister owns up over the Platjaan Bridge

Botswana which is currently the chair of the regional block SADC is failing to lead by example on the regional integration and stimulation of economy with the region’s super power South Africa. In 2007 Botswana and South Africa developed the Regional Action Agenda Report with the intention of identifying gaps, prioritising projects and promoting regional integration and development. As part of the report, the two countries agreed to upgrade bridges and river crossings connecting the two countries, with Ramotswa and Platjaan bridges being the first to be constructed. The South African government agreed to construct the Notwane River Bridge Project/Ramotswa Bridge Construction (Swartkopfontein) while Botswana was to take the Platjaan project. Two years after the signing of the agreement, Botswana is yet to fulfil its part as its procuring processes are dodged with controversies.

Minister concedes dismal failure
The Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo has finally conceded that his ministry has failed dismally in the procurement process for the construction of the Platjaan Bridge linking Botswana and South Africa. The bridge, which is regarded as economically strategic for the SPEDU, has been postponed on several occasions due to failure by ministry to award the tender. Mabeo revealed to Parliament that they have now handed the procurement of the bridge to SPEDU, the regional diversification unit based in Selibe Phikwe. “SPEDU as sponsors for the project has requested to take over the procurement process for the project since my ministry has failed several times to procure a contractor for the project and my ministry has acceded to their request,” he said answering a question from the MP for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse. According to Mabeo, the tender was first awarded in August 2014 and the evaluation by the consultant indicated that all tenderers were not compliant with the requirements and were all citizen-owned companies.

The consultant indicated that all tenderers were no compliant on technical criteria, mainly the experience of various key personnel as required by the ITT. The first re-tender was opened in April 2015 and closed in June 2015 and the submitted bids ranged from P72 million to P73 million against the P55 million in the first bids. The tender was also cancelled as the tenderer who met the tender requirement had some his key personnel engaged in other government projects hence was disqualified. “Other tenderers’ proposed key personnel had failed to comply with the requirements of Engineers’ Registration Board (ERB),” he said, adding that the tender was then cancelled by Ministerial Tender Committee in August 2015. The Platjaan Bridge is part of Botswana and South Africa’s plan to enhance regional integration and stimulate the economy between the two countries. The Platjaan Bridge – if completed – will facilitate trade between Botswana and South Africa in the northern part and boost the economy in SPEDU area, which is dependent on the loss making BCL Mine.

The project was again re-retendered for the third time late year and evaluation method was changed from least cost based selection to quality and cost based method and three tenderers submitted their bids which ranged from P69 million to P78 million. Mabeo said that the tender was also cancelled in March this year after it was found that the tender document was defective. Fed up with the constant cancellation by the Ministry of Transport and Communications, SPEDU requested to take over the procurement process for the project. The bridge is of strategic importance to the Bobirwa area which is rich in both wildlife and heritage tourism sites which can boost the local economy. One of the famous activities in the area is the Mathathane Basket Weaving project and the Thuli Block area which houses some of the country’s top tourist sites like Mashatu Game Reserve and the Madikwe Hills. The completion of the bridge will also ease congestion at other border posts especially during holidays as it is close to Limpopo, seat of Zion Christian Church (ZCC) headquarters which has a large following in Botswana. The construction of the bridge is part of 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 South African government is constructing the Ramotswa border bridge at a cost of R20 million and the project is currently on-going.

Mohembo Bridge
Upon its completion the iconic 1.2 kilometre Cable Stayed and Incrementally Launched Bridge will become the country’s landmark.  The Mohembo Bridge will be the first suspended bridge in Botswana and one of the longest - at 1162m - in the southern African region. The main towers, which are creatively symbolised as elephant tusks, extend some 85m above the bridge deck. In an interview Minister Mabeo said the tender for the project was closed last week and currently it is at evaluation stage. The construction of the bridge is expected to take 36 months. The P1 billion bridge construction has been postponed for more than 10 years.

Kazungula Bridge
The Kazungula Bridge project is shared by Botswana and Zambia and is funded by the African Development Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as well as contributions from both governments. Early this year the project faced some challenges with construction halted after Chilibwe Mining Company in Zambia filed an injunction to restrain contractors from excavating quarry on its land for the project. As way of ensuring the project was not delayed by the court case, Mabeo said they decided to start construction from the Botswana side. Progress at the P1.4 billion project has stabilised though it is still behind schedule. The construction of the 923 metres long bridge across the Zambezi River upon completion will facilitate trade between Botswana and Zambia and other countries in the region. Construction of the Kazungula Bridge has been on cards for more than 10 years and initially Zimbabwe was part of the project but pull out as it failed to raise the funds. The project is expected to facilitate faster movement of products within the region and reduce the transit time from 36 hours to two hours. It will also help bring down transportation costs and the cost of doing business.