Residential and commercial plots owners along a section of A12 highway running through Molepolole Village, who were looking to cash in during a land expropriation exercise to pave the way for a dual carriage expansion, were shocked to learn this week that the project has been abandoned. The shocker was delivered in Parliament on Tuesday by MP Botlogile Tshireletso – standing in for Minister of Transport and Communications. Tshireletso is the assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development. After waiting for many years for the expansion of an already dilapidated single lane tarmac, Molepolole South MP Dr Tlamelo Mmatli had asked the Minister of Transport and Communications to commit to the commencement and completion of the through road project within the stipulated period from 2017 to 2021. Tshireletso said following extensive stakeholder consultations, it was decided to suspend construction of a dual carriage way through road from Blue Bows English Medium School to Scottish Livingstone Hospital. Despite pledging the ministry’s commitment to resolve the traffic congestion along the village main trunk through road, Tshireletso said the decision was taken in anticipation of possibilities of serious delays due to a massive and very costly land expropriation processes.
Suspension of through road
She explained that following the completion of designs, a decision was taken to suspend the construction of the through road with consideration given to an option for a Molepolole by-pass informed by possibilities of delays due to land expropriation processes. "The process to change the scope from the through road to a by-pass development is on-going between the ministry and the relevant stakeholders and it is expected to be completed by the end of November 2017. Once we have determined realistic conclusions on this matter as per the timeliness we have set, this House shall be briefed with further details," said Tshireletso.Being the biggest village in Botswana, the bludgeoning population of Molepolole has generated a lot of developments along the highway running through the village both residential and businesses. According to the project expropriation report, there are approximately 197 expropriation activities that have to be carried along the through road, some minor and some major. Invitation to tender documents were submitted to Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) for vetting on the 4th October, 2016 and vetting was finalised on 14th October, 2016. Design review was expected to be completed by end of December, 2016 but was delayed due to extensive consultation with stakeholders.Beyond those looking to benefit directly from compensation for being relocated elsewhere, the cancellation of the approved dual carriage road designed to pass through the centre of the village to ease heavy traffic congestion has caused a huge outcry from public transport operators, residents and other road users.
Moleps – 66 466 people
The A12 highway is the only connection through Molepolole – the village capital and service centre of Kweneng District – to Thebephatshwa Airbase, Khutse and Central Kalahari Game Reserves, Letlhakeng and all destinations to the west and north. According to the 2011 Botswana Population and Housing Census statistics for Molepolole and associated localities stood at 73,103 people while 66,466 were recorded for Molepolole village alone easily making it the most populated in the country. Unhappy with the response, Dr Mmatli demanded clarification on who was consulted, where and when such consultation took place and if the ministry was not aware of the need for expropriation activities when they approved the project for the current financial year. Tshireletso's answer was a repetition of what she had read in a written response from Minister Kitso Mokaila who was not in Parliament. "We have consulted the Ministry of Transport, Councils and other stake holders, and from our observation we realised that, this project is going to be costly and would not be carried out within the timelines that we had set. We then took a decision to construct a bypass to ease traffic congestion in the village," she said. Tshireletso infuriated the MP when she suggested that he can take up any further questions on the project outside Parliament with Mokaila. "You do not necessarily have to bring the matter to Parliament, you can just talk to him and he will add on to what I said because I got the information from the Ministry. Tomorrow you should see the relevant Minister outside so that he can give you the right answer," she suggested.
Dr Mmatli retorted: "I am not happy with the issue that Honourable Minister stated that it is not necessary for me to ask a question in Parliament. I want the Minister to explain where these things were done? When and with who? I want to take this answer to the people in Molepolole who have asked me to ask this question. If she says people have been consulted, then who are these people; because these are the same people who have sent me to ask these questions".Tshireletso: "He said dinnenyane (meaning things) and I do not know what he is referring to. I mentioned that we have consulted with the people, so when he says “where were these things done?” What does he mean by that?"
Dr Mmatli: "Which people?"
Tshireletso: "I stated that as the Ministry of Transport, we are having consultations with the department of roads in Molepolole".
By claiming to have consulted the ministry of transport and the department of roads in Molepolole in her responses, effectively Tshireletso was telling Parliament that Mokaila's ministry consulted itself about the change in scope of the project. This is corroborated by a number of councillors at Kweneng District Council (KDC) who told The Patriot on Sunday this week that they were never consulted about cancellation of the project and the design of a by-pass. Borakalalo ward councillor, Arafat Khan, said when councillors demanded answers at the last full council meeting about the project an officer was sent by the ministry to tell them about the by-pass. "When we asked questions to establish how that happened, the officer said he did not know much about the project. Is that what they call consultation," asked Khan. Over the years conflicting statements have been presented by Government officials on different occasions, regarding decongesting the A12 highway. Although officials at the ministry of transport and communication had promised that a dual carriage through road will be constructed in Molepolole, a quick perusal of a State of the Nation Address presented 9th of November 2015 by President Ian Khama shows that a by-pass had already been decided on as far back then. On that date Khama said: "As part of ESP we will increase funding in the coming year for projects to decongest the A1 road while building bypasses in Francistown, Molepolole and Lobatse".