The ongoing reconstruction of the Gaborone – Boatle road has caused havoc for motorists and businesses in the area almost in equal measure. To arrive on time when getting into the city, particularly in the morning has for a greater part of the past two years warranted commuters to wake up much earlier than they used to. Otherwise, such commuters have now become habitual late comers.
As for businesses along the way, revenue has dwindled as work carried inn front their premises has forced buyers to look elsewhere. At worst some businesses have been forced to close. However, hope is looming on the horizon as the project is about to be completed.
The design and construction of the Gaborone-Boatle road is phase I of the Gaborone-Lobatse road construction project. The design of the road was done in 2008/09. The road has a design life of 20 years.
According to the Department of Roads spokesperson Doreen Moapare, the road is an ESP project meant to defuse traffic congestion along this section of the A1 Highway. Though completion date was initially set for on the 23rd March 2019 Moapare says it is expected to complete on the 5th April 2019.
“Delays in the project can be attributed to delay in the access of borrow pits, relocation of services and unforeseen rains,” she said.
With just two months left to completion, it’s becoming clear that the reconstruction will not only ease congestion but the road‘s aesthetics will surely give this section of the highway a new facelift.
The scope of works for the project include the upgrading of the existing Gaborone - Boatle Road (approximately 23km) from a single carriageway (two lanes) to dual carriageway (four lanes) road of bituminous standards with associated geometric improvements including an interchange at Boatle Junction.
All this will cost the tax payers P1, 069, 836, 218.98 (One Billion, and Sixty-Nine Million, Eight Hundred and Thirty-Six, Two Hundred and Eighteen Pula, Ninety-Eight Thebe).
As of November 2018, overall progress was at 68.9% against 77%. The eastern carriageway which is more than 90 percent complete has been opened for traffic from Game City to Boatle interchange, Moapare said. Works are at an advanced stage on the western carriageway. In December 2018, the eastern slip-lanes of the Boatle interchange were opened to traffic and are in full use while progress on the Boatle interchange was at 73% as of November 2018.
Ancillary works as of November 2018 were at an overall figure of 24% (this includes kerbing & channels. Road marking, concrete chutes, open drains, pedestrian walkway, median paving, fencing, guardrails, traffic and street lights eta).
Businesses count losses
For a project of this magnitude there obviously will be a few changes to people especially those living on the periphery of the road. So far, according to Moapare, six (6) properties affected have been expropriated with full compensation at a total amount of P850, 859. 90). But one property owner is disputing the compensation amount, according to the roads spokesperson.
But as for businesses that are adjacent to the road or relied on the direct feed of motorists using the road, the tune is a little different. The Puma filling station situated at Boatle intersection for example has over the years enjoyed business from the busy highway. But according to Tshepiso Moeng, who works as a supervisor at the filling station, ever since construction works started business has been hard. The number of motorists who stop over to refuel has dramatically dropped.
“This road used to feed directly into the filling station; business was good back then, but now we are struggling. Drivers seem to prefer refueling either in Gaborone or wherever they will be coming from,” Moeng regretted.
Even worse Moeng said their worry is that things are not really going to go back to normal at the completion of the project. Their location seem to be unfavourable as it would seem all routes out of the intersection would not have any link/turn into the filling station, meaning that it is going to be a struggle for motorists to get to them. The restaurant that operates adjacent to the filling station also has the same grievances. The shop keeper pointed out that their sales are not any better as ordinarily their big portion of their sales were from people who made stopovers at the filling station.
For Molelekwa Ramogojwana, a combi driver who operates on the Boatle–Ramotswa route, the problem isn’t a decrease in business at such but the logistical inconvenience brought about by the construction works. He blamed communication break down between them and roads department for some of their challenges.
“Ever since we were moved from our previous bus rank there hasn’t been a clear communication as to where the new rank will be situated and this is inconveniencing us and our customers,” he said.
He said the spot they are currently operating from is just temporary, having moved there after the spot they were to use proved too inconvenient for their trade.
The Lion Park Resort lies less than 20 kilometres from the city centre and lies close to the A1 highway. According to the resort’s General Manager Dewald van der Walt, they have so far accepted the inconveniences that a construction project of this nature would bring. He, however, said they are positive that upon completion the new road will bring more positive results to their business.
“Several consultations were held prior to and during construction, with owners of properties that were affected by construction, with the business community, especially the businesses at Boatle. The consultations have been documented, and the pros & cons that are likely to evolve during construction were thoroughly explained to attendants,” said Moapare.
They have in addition addressed planned Kgotla meetings at Ramotswa main Kgotla, Taung and Mokolodi for the general public. Some of the consultations were part of the environmental management plan procedures where the public are alerted on developments and how they will affect their immediate environment and thereafter given an opportunity to raise their concerns.
A new project obviously means creation of employment and a new source of income for locals. Nearly 700 Batswana are said to have been employed by the project at various levels.
But for 34-year-old Kabo Modikwa* there hasn’t been much to write home about. He works as a crane operator for a company sub contracted in the project.
According to Modikwa, he has been working with the sub-contractor in the northern parts of the country and relocated with them when they had to start on the Gaborone-Boatle project. So far, he said there hasn’t been any change to his pay though he now has to foot his accommodation bill this side.
“There has not been any change of life on my side,” he said.
His sentiments are shared by a number of his colleagues especially those in the same level as him. They bemoaned the paltry pay that they are getting. They nonetheless acknowledged that without the project some of them wouldn’t be employed.
Ten citizen and two non-citizen companies – Consolidated Contractors Company of Kuwait and China State Construction and Engineering Corporation – have been sub-contracted for this project. Bothakga Burrow Botswana are supervising consultants.