Early this year, as the scale of electricity shortages started to get more apparent and the squeeze on businesses and households became all the more apparent, the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources PHK Kedikilwe embarked on a roadshow through which he appraised various stakeholders of what was really happening.
The Minister’s commendable efforts started with his detailed briefing of the National Assembly.
Among other stakeholders, the Minister was to later on brief the media, taking the reporters by hand as to what his ministry was doing to mitigate the effects.
One line from the Minister which we memorized by heart and which we still recall to this day, which we also used as a catch-phrase of the commendable editorial we wrote about Minister Kedikilwe’s approach was a warning from him that, in our desperation to abet the ravages of power shortages, we should be careful not to mortgage this country.
Minister Kedikilwe was referring to the high price offers with which independent power suppliers had approached government in a bid to make quick money out of our plight as a nation.
It, therefore, comes as a matter of deep sorrow to us that the warning by Minister Kedikilwe not to parcel and mortgage this country to vultures masquerading as saviours seems not to have been heeded.
As we report elsewhere in this edition of this Sunday Standard, the P8 billion contract for the expansion of Morupule Power Station leaves a lot to be desired.
Regrettably, while it is very clear that assistance was sought from the Chinese Government on which of the bidding companies could be entrusted with a project of such magnitude, complexity and sophistication, such advice was not taken even though it was duly given free of charge by the Chinese Ambassador to Botswana.
A choice was made that went contrary to all technical warnings given.
It is hard to believe, but it would seem like senior executives at state owned utility, Botswana Power Corporation, together with central government officials who are tasked with seeing this country out of the current phase of darkness betrayed the trust bestowed on them by disregarding all the available evidence and guidance on which of the contractors to choose.
This, to us, amounts to exactly what Minister Kedikilwe so succinctly once termed mortgaging the country.
In other countries, if proven correct, such transgressions are punishable by death.
We call on Minister Kedikilwe, Vice President Mompati Merafhe and President Ian Khama to thoroughly review the circumstances surrounding the awarding of this huge contract.
As we know, Botswana relies a lot on South Africa for electricity.
Botswana’s contract with that contractor is fast running to an end.
The situation is made worse by the fact that South Africa has its own internal problems.
Which is why we cannot risk the future of Botswana on a few corrupt officials.
If it’s possible, experts from DCEC should be called in to investigate the details surrounding what insiders suspect to be cases of potential corruption that threaten to be the biggest in Botswana’s history.
It is our understanding that President Ian Khama has already asked for a report on this matter.
We draw solace from that understanding.
While we do not want to preempt or prejudice any probable investigations, we want to call on the Government of Botswana to give this matter all the seriousness it deserves.
Electricity shortage has already created a crisis situation for Botswana.
We cannot, as a country and nation, afford any further deepening of the situation which, as we learn can befall us simply because, out of greed, government officials decided to award the contract to a wrong company that has neither the capacity nor credibility to see through the project.
Last week, we ran an editorial on allegations of corruption at yet another state owned utility company, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation.
We pointed out that corruption has the tendency not only to undermine the economy, but also distort the pricing fundamentals.
That seems to be what has happened with the Morupule expansion project.
This week, we want to add that, left unattended, corruption could easily become a national security threat.
Which is why we think President Khama should look at this contract very closely to examine if it was taken in the best interest of Botswana.
A failure to do so would amount exactly to what PHK Kedikilwe once referred to as mortgaging the country to private interests.