There are fears throughout the Southern African sub continent that the next few years are going to provide real challenges in terms of electricity supply.
The region’s power supplier, South Africa, which provides Botswana with close to 80 percent of her needs, is already going through serious power outages that have become daily.
South Africa is already investing billions to build new power stations.
Indications are that those new investments are welcome but rater belated.
By the time they get into use, demand would have by far outstripped supply.
Research indicates that the government knew at least ten years ago that the rate at which demand was growing and outstripping supply was bound to catch up with us.
For Botswana, the situation is going to be worse.
Not only do we import over three quarters of our needs, our mainstay, which is mining, cannot afford to go for a few days without power supply.
We, therefore, think its high time the power utility, the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), together with mining houses like Debswana, BCL, Tati Nickel and many other new mines, especially in the Francistown area that have become so crucial to the sustenance of this country’s economy told the nation what contingency measures are in place to avert what could easily become a national tragedy.
We appreciate the government’s concerted efforts to develop Mmamabula.
But we have to be honest with ourselves as a nation.
Mmamabula is a huge, long term project which will take long to complete.
Without stop gap measures, by the time the project is complete, this country would have been turned into a ghost desert.
We appreciate efforts taken by Vice president Ian Khama and the Minister responsible for energy to fast track the project, but we want to suggest that the country’s energy security should be given more attention that it is currently getting.
Our view is that people who were privy to the terms of the agreements between Botswana and South Africa have been lax and insincere.
Those people have always known not just the terms which gave priority to South Africa in the event of a shortage, but also that, generally, supply had not been growing.
Instead of telling the nation in advance that a crisis was looming they decided to hold back the information and pretend it was normal business.
We suggest that significant investments, resources and human energy, be channeled towards rescuing this country from what, if left unattended to, could turn into economic meltdown and human catastrophe.
Again, there is nothing wrong with developing Mmamabula for long term security.
But the truth is that we need something urgently and our traditional suppliers have already indicated they have their own problems.
Over and above frantically teaching people about power saving, BPC should go public and tell the nation what alternative measures it has to save the mines of this country from extinction simply because there is no power to run them.
On the other hand, the mining houses should not remain aloof.
Instead, they should start being candid with the nation by telling the public what power challenges they are going through and what situation they expect.
They must, more importantly, say how they expect power shortages to adversely affect their production.
This is not only important to create anticipation, it will also help government in its planning.