Government seems to be somersaulting on the intentions of its airports project with the revelation that a decision was taken before the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
After a guided tour of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA) on Friday, Transport and Communications Minister, Frank Ramsden, explained the project is not for the World Cup.
“We were not building these projects for 2010 (the year for FIFA World Cup). We have had these plans before,” said Ramsden.
“If we lose 2010, we will still have the facilities and more airliners will come to Gaborone.”
If that is the government position, the public was misled because the perception was that airports, especially SSKIA were being expanded to
target the world cup spill offs.
“Government always had plans on the table to improve airports in Gaborone, Francistown, Kasane and Maun looking at the changing patterns in the world,” added the minister saying the point is supported by the fact that Botswana is a tourist country.
The airport is being expanded at a cost close to half a billion Pula to accommodate traffic as the country tries to move into international map.
The project, which is done in two faces was expected to be completed in May 11, 2010, but it the deadline is now extended to before the end the year.
It is believed that the delays to the completion date follows weather problems and delays in the arrival of materials from suppliers.
The project has gone a month behind and Ramsden warned that the blame should not lie with government alone, but some contractors do it deliberately.
“All the contractors should keep to budget and time. Someone it is deliberate as the contractors want to swindle government.”
SSKIA expansion project is being undertaken by Chinese firm Sino Hydro.
“We are watching the conclusion date,” Ramsden later told journalists.
“Unfortunately we have learnt that they (the contractors) have fallen behind on their work.”
Ramsden pleaded with contractors not to pass the cost to government because Sino Hydro is involved in many works like construction of dams amongst others.
“Sino Hydro should consider certain things like the extra costs. We should try and have a balance,” said the minister.
“Some of these delays are not from our side,” he added. “In fact Sino Hydro is doing a lot of projects for the government of Botswana.”
The Project Manager for the airport expansion promised he will talk to his superiors in Beijing.
The expansion project includes the new terminal building and extension of runway compliant with the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) requirements.
Media reports show that Phase 2 of the project includes the construction of a new building on the site of the existing terminal building and further work on the new separate terminal that will include car parks and aircraft parking aprons.
When complete, it is expected that the terminal will be capable of processing up to 900 passengers per hour, while the runway which is to be extended by a kilometer, will be capable of hosting large aircraft such as jumbo jets. Currently, SSKIA can handle Boeing 747, but without weight.
The new airport will also have a new parallel asphalt taxiway running for four kilometers and 33 additional hangar plots.