Saturday, September 25, 2021

Mabeo keeps close-eye on Kazungula Bridge contractors

KASANE ÔÇô The Minister responsible for Transport and Communications, Tshenolo Mabeo is said to be closely monitoring the construction of the Kazungula Bridge in a bid to avoid another government sponsored ‘sub-standard’ project.

Sunday Standard has been informed that Mabeo, as recent as last week Sunday, gave the contractors of the bridge a stern warning to get their house in order after it emerged that there are some delays in the implementation of some bridging projects such as accommodation and offices of project engineers. It is feared that the delay in the mini-projects could affect the completion of the overall project which is expected to be handed over in 2018.

Mabeo confirmed to Sunday Standard that he visited the construction site of the bridge together with his Zambian counterpart where they met with senior manager of the Korean multinational, Daewoo Engineering and Construction.

Mabeo’s Sunday visit was the second in a space of three months as the minister seeks to monitor the progress of the building of the P1.4 billion project co-sponsored by Botswana and Zambia.

The Kazungula Bridge and Border Project (KBBP) entails the implementation of new infrastructure to replace the existing ferry and border facilities between Zambia and Botswana at Kazungula. The project comprises the construction of road/rail Bridge with a span of 932 meters over the river Zambezi; border facilities in each country and approximately 10 km of bridge approach and access roads. The project will be carried out in three phases with the first phase being the construction of the bridge which is expected to have a railway line component to it.

Kazungula Bridge is expected to facilitate trade in Botswana and within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Physical works for the Kazungula Bridge were expected to start this year. So far, a piece of land had been identified and cleared in Kazungula, where contractors’ offices have been built.

On his Sunday visit, Mabeo is said to have expressed his disappointment with the stalling engineers’ accommodation. It emerged during Mabeo’s visit that the building of houses that will be accommodating the engineers of the project has not yet started despite assurance by the contractors to Mabeo is his previous visit.

At the same time, it has also emerged that there are delays in the payment of some sub-contractors and workers who are engaged in the project. In an effort to empower locals in the construction industry who in the past have been critical of being sidelined during bigger projects, the government pushed for joint ventures.  The project consultant Kobamelo Kgoboko revealed during Mabeo’s visit that they already had labour complaints due to lack of payments resulting in some putting their tools down.

At the same time, some of the sub-contractors made news headlines earlier this year over allegations of tribalism and corrupt hiring procedures when recruiting for the project.

The project is funded by loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and African Development Bank (AfDB) and contributions from both the governments of Botswana and Zambia is expected to facilitate trade between the two countries and the SADC region by reducing the number of truckers at the border, improving border management operations arising from the new one border post facilities and reduce time-based trade and transport costs.

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