BPC, and politicians –Consumers & Voters do have power, or do they?

09 Dec 2018

Once again, that our neighbours, South Africa are facing massive power problems is not news. What also is not news is the fact that when South Africa coughs we get the flu. It is for this reason that the minister responsible for energy resources Eric Molale and the Botswana Power Corporation has come out to caution against eminent load shedding.

For so many years now, except most part of 2017 Botswana has been experiencing power cuts due to shortage of electricity in South Africa.

What we need to remind ourselves though is the fact had it not been our lack of accountability we could be saying something positive. Our failure or the failure by our government to invest in new plants, lack of maintenance of the then only plants such as the old Morupule power plant as well as a very slow development of private producer market, are some of the factors that have led to the power problems that we faced then and continue to face even now.

A few years back our government has talked of liberalising energy supply by allowing Independent Power Providers. To date we have no record of any significant player in that space. But as we all might be aware, IPPs will not only bring competition, they will also alleviate the now constant power outages while at the same time help bring down cost of electricity.

The real scandal, of course, is the woeful inability of cabinet to select a credible and competent company to build a power station of what was to be Morupule B. 

Our power corporation, the BPC, we all now know has terribly mismanaged the energy supply expansion through the now ill-fated Morupule B; a multi-billion pula investment that has somewhat failed its good intensions.

Just how desperate the situation ended was demonstrated by the government’s risky political decision to switch on the controversial power plant although it was not ready for commissioning as confirmed by the African Development Bank.

In the meantime no one has been held accountable for this billion of Pulas loss. Under normal circumstances, such a defaulter should bear the costs not households and businesses like it is going to be the case in the next few weeks and months.

But while we failed to meet our demand and possibly sell to other neighbouring countries, opportunities have come out, maybe to haunt us. We learnt in 2015 that, given the demand pressure, South Africa started buying extra power from western neighbour - Namibia. At the same time our BPC continues to pay South Africa’s Eskom exorbitant fees to keep our country alight.

While our BPC pays these high fees, Namibia’s power utility NamPower has been able to export power to both South Africa and us because the country has a surplus.

In the past three or so years no serious power supply disruptions have been experienced by our neighbouring country (Namibia), whose economic powers are not too distant from ours. The huge difference is the fact that NamPower, unlike BPC has had the foresight to put adequate measures in place through its Short-term Critical Supply initiatives meant to mitigate potential shortages.

At the same, here at home, there is generally a culture of impunity, which has, over the last six years or so, cost this country very dearly. 

Projects have either been left unfinished while others are of sub standard quality yet nobody is liable. At the same time, no one questions anything, we all lack ‘accountability’.

The #Bottom-line though is that the energy sector remains strategic and pivotal in unleashing our country’s economic and social potential for advancement for all the citizenry. If we had played our cards closer to our chest, by now we could be making money and selling electricity to the ailing energy sector of South Africa while at the same time meeting local demand.