Monday, March 8, 2021

F’town residents fear proposed interchange junction could turn into white elephant

Francistown residents have expressed fears over the proposed inter-change junction which will replace the Thapama circle in the city arguing government should properly monitor the project so that it does not become a white elephant.

Speaking during a consultation meeting on Friday conducted by the Ministry of Transport and Communication, the residents expressed concern over failure by government to monitor most of its projects saying that such a habit is costing the nation its taxes.

Popularly known as the “Spaghetti Road,” the proposed state of the art inter-change junction is part of the on-going rehabilitation of the Tonota-Francistown road and it will be the first of its kind in Botswana. The sophisticated junction is expected to ease the load of traffic in the city of Francistown and reduce road accidents.

Responding to a presentation from Obusitswe Keitheile who is the Design Team Leader of Pula Consultancy, a company engaged by government in the design of the junction and supervision of the construction of the Tonota-Francistown road, the residents minced no words, saying that government has a tendency of giving tenders to fly by night contractors who often do not complete projects or use substandard materials in the projects.

They gave examples of Morupule B Plant, Francistown Stadium and the Shakawe Senior Secondary School saying that government failed all these projects.

“This interchange junction is a welcome development for the people of Francistown but we do not want history to repeat itself because many government projects have since turned into white elephants. Look at what happened to projects such as the Morupule B Plant in Palapye, Francistown Stadium and the BDC Fengyui Glass Manufactuting Plant in Palapye. This is clear testimony that government is failing most of its projects and we do not want this to happen to this project. The most painful part is that our taxes were pumped into this failed projects,” said Theresa Mundawa of Somerset Extension.

She further said that most of the time government fails projects because it awards tenders to contractors without properly scrutinizing them.

Keitheile had indicated in his presentation that geotechnical engineering survey where the junction will be erected is almost complete. He said that the interchange junction will be the first of its kind in Botswana and will help reduce traffic in the city of Francistown. He also said that the junction will help reduce accidents and further give Francistown a face-lift. He said that consultations over the proposed design are on-going and the final design is expected to be approved by June this year. Keitheile said that once the design is approved, it will be handed over to the main contractor, China Railways who will then determine its cost and carry on the project.

Lentswe Ranto, a resident Monarch location also expressed his concern saying that it is high time that government desist from giving tenders to fly by night contractors.

“There are many South African companies which have done quality work in Botswana but over the years, the government has turned its back on these companies and gives most of its tenders to Chinese companies who often do a shoddy job. It is also high time that government considers citizen contractors because more often they are always sidelined when it comes to government tenders,” he said.

Another resident of Monarch location, Keneilwe Masingwa also said that proper tests and research should be done so that the project does not end up a disaster.

“I am very happy that we are finally getting developments in Francistown but you should do a proper research before conducting a project of such a magnitude so that it does not lead to a disaster collapsing and killing people,” she said.

In response, the Design Leader of Pula Consultancy Keitheile assured the residents that the project will not be a disappointment hence their consultation with different stake-holders. He said that they will do everything possible to make sure that the project is a success and it is of high quality standard.

Touching on environmental health issues, Thabiso Ngwenya, also from Pula Consultancy said that they have taken all environmental issues into cognition to allow construction to take place with ease. She also said that most of the residents who were repatriated to give way for construction of the project have duly been compensated.

“Out of 46 people we have already compensated 34 people. Compensation is on-going as we speak,” she said.

The Ministry Transport and Communication through Roads Department held a meeting to present the proposed design of the first ever interchange junction which will replace what is commonly known as Thapama round about circle in Francistown.

The objective of the consultation meeting was to ensure that the end user or customer makes input and takes ownership of the expected development. The public and stakeholder consultation on this project began in April 2012.

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