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Inside Botswana's dirty water politics

SHARE   |   Thursday, 01 August 2019   |   By Ricardo Kanono
Mzwinila Mzwinila

Drama continues to play itself out at the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services as Minister Kefentse Mzwinila tried to bypass parliament and have Ministry of Finance approve the Project Memorandum.

Mzwinila is expected to present before parliament supplementary budget of P800 million for the construction of the 100 km pipeline. “Ministry of Finance is said to be ready to approve the funding through a ‘special’ tranche,” revealed a source at MLWS.

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On Thursday afternoon, Project Management Officers were allegedly instructed to ensure that by the end of the day Project Memorandum is submitted to Ministry of Finance for approval. The 100 kilometer pipeline was rejected by cabinet last year.

Botswana government through Ministry of Land Management, Water & Sanitation Services (MLWS), Water Utilities Corporation (WUS) and Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) are alleged to be caught in a web of corruption regarding the multibillion water projects.

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Recently DIS completed their investigations regarding the alleged corruption at MLWS and this was confirmed by the Director General Peter Magosi during a press briefing recently.

Magosi refused to answer a question whether is true that tenders awarded to China Jiangsu International were cancelled because they refused to fund some of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) candidates during the primary elections and for general elections.

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He chose to say that they are going to investigate all the ministries as they have realized that they are riddled with corruption.

Magosi promised that many officials and construction will appear before the courts of law on charges of corruption but conceded that it might take some time as investigating  corruption on its own is complicated and involves lot of players.

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Why some construction companies blacklisted?

Information gathered by this publication and corroborated by some senior government officials have revealed that three companies China Jiangsu, WHBO and Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) have been target for some ministers who felt they refused to assist them during their campaigns.

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Some cabinet ministers went on to lose the primary elections and feel hard done.

Sometime last year one cabinet minister accompanied by senior government official in MLWS approached one of the three companies asking for donations to help in the campaign but was turned down.

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“This infuriated him and told the company’s directors that they won’t get any tenders as long as he is still in cabinet and will influence that some of them be deported from Botswana,” revealed one investigator with the security agencies.

The three companies had a rude awakening last year December when they were shortlisted for the technical report for the construction of the P1.3 billion Masama/Mmamashia pipeline all for the reported to be turned down by OP.

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The Project Management Officers were summoned at the Office of the President and told that they must cancel the tender as the three companies were not preferred by government. They were instructed to re-do the technical evaluation.

The issue led to the demotion of PS in MLWS Thatayaone Dedede being demoted and appointed Deputy Director at Botswana Public Service College.

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President Masisi advised to seek external advisors

President Mokgweetsi Masisi is said to be caught in the engineering jargon as two warring teams of engineers are fighting for the North South Career (NSC) II which has since been halted.

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“Some of us have advised President Masisi to seek external water engineer advisors especially outside the country who are have nothing to do with this project because the resident ones are also conflicted.

On one side are those who are calling for the construction of 100 kilometer pipeline that will draw from the two Masama Wells and supply the Southern part of the country. The project is estimated to be completed in 2025. The challenge according to those close to the events is that it was not budgeted for and means taking P400 million meant for Lobatse Master Water plan.

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On the other side are those engineers who are adamant they must stick to the original plan of using Masama Wells for emergency purpose and continue with the current project.

The current project which has been divided into four components will see the southern part continuing to be supplied by the NSC pipeline.

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Cancelled contractors awarded one company

Some industry players have raised concern that it seems only one company benefited from the tenders which were cancelled by DIS.

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P1.3 billion Masama-Mmamashia pipeline

The technical report by Bergstan Consulting Engineers recommended three companies CCC, China Jiangsu and WBHO and was supposed to go for financials but was cancelled.  Officials at OP are said to have preferred Zhengtai Group Botswana.

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P1.5 billion Maun Reticulation Project

In April this year, DIS advised Permanent Secretary to MLWS to terminate the multibillion tender awarded to China Jiangsu for the Maun Reticulation Project.

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The tender was again awarded to Zhengtai Group Botswana at the tune of P.8 billion though China Jiangsu has taken MLWS and PPADB over the cancellation of the tender.

P800 million  Mmamashia Water Treatment Plant

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The tender was won by Unik Construction and China Jiangsu International Botswana (a joint venture) for the design supply, installation and commissioning of the Mmamashia Water Treatment Plant.

Early this year DIS advised WUC to cancel the tender as they felt the two companies’ poses threat to national security.

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The two took WUC and DIS to court and Justice Tebogo Tau ordered that   that an international arbitrator mediates between government and the two companies.

 P418 Moshupa Hospital

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Another tender which has rattled feathers within the construction industry is the awarding of the tender for the construction of Moshupa hospital still to Zhengtai Group Botswana.

The tender was initially awarded to China Jiangsu who has since taken the matter to court thus stalling the construction of the hospital.

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In their court papers, China Jiangsu demands to know whether the PPADB and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development were correct in having them excluded “from participating in the tender on the basis of baseless and unfounded falsehoods perpetrated by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services...”    



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