A decision by former Cabinet Minister, Prince Maele to grant property mogul Sayeed Jamali permission to construct a bridge without exercising due diligence has raised eye brows.
Government road engineers are questioning why Maele without engaging government technical experts, fast tracked the approval of Jamali’s proposal for the design and construction of the bridge project although he had not submitted the required documentsÔÇô leaked documents reveal.
The project ran into trouble after government road engineers discovered the “national disaster waiting to happen” and called for immediate investigation. The engineers lifted the lid on the questionable project and circulated an email message to other government engineers with attached pictures of the construction site calling for immediate action.
In the email, dated 25 July, 2018, entitled “UB-Tlokweng Road Construction” the engineers requested their colleagues to “scrutinize the attached pictures taken at the site. There are many unanswered questions here and it is imperative that action is taken as early as now.”
Disparaging Maele’s decision, the engineers queried: “who sanctioned the project, whoever did that does he/she know what is happening there, who is supervising the project, has EIA been concluded (and) what does it say about issues such as disposal of unwanted materials, construction of culverts is wanting.”
The email also states that “the submitted drawings indicate a straight road and the explanation on the construction on extra access to the yard with screen wall is required, the use of a small roller in compaction formation layer is questionable, in fact the used construction methods.”
The whistleblowers revealed that “the above are some of the observations we came across on the 19th July 2018 when out of curiosity we paid a visit to site after hearing that construction is ongoing at the said site. May I by this email appeal for immediate action on the matter.”
Maele as the Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services gave Jamali the green light to go ahead and implement the project in letter dated 14 November 2016 titled “Application for Planning Permission for Development of Gaborone-Tlokweng Vehicular Bridge and Related Ancillary Road.”
The letter reads, “In exercise of the powers vested in him by Section 25 of the Town and Country Planning Act 2013, the Minister has considered and approved in principle your proposal for the design and construction of the Gaborone-Tlokweng Bridge and associated works.”
The letter further states that Jamali’s application was approved in principle “subject to the following; submit detailed design drawings for approval by government, EIA for the project prior to commencement of construction work, to carry out consultations with stakeholders and affected people with land rights upon confirmation of the alignment of the road, development a milestone chart for the project and ensure that Government is represented in the team supervising the construction of the bridge and other associated works.”
Insiders said the former minister should not have approved the “proposal for the design and construction of” the project before EIA and other requirements were met. Curiously when the Sunday Standard team went to the Universal Buildings Offices in Block 3 to interview Jamali they bumped into Maele who was also at the offices.
Asked about his decision to grant Jamali permission to build the bridge, Maele said the ministry was in better place to respond to the questions regarding the project since all correspondences were from the Ministry. He would not entertain questions on what he was doing at Jamali’s office saying he could not discuss his presence at Jamal’s office because it was purely personal.
“Whether I have a relationship with him or not this is personal and let’s not discuss it. Does that mean when I go to Choppies it mean that I have a relationship with Choppies?” asked Maele.
For his part, Jamali said he had not flouted any procedures insisting that he was only de-bushing and clearing a site and had not started construction of a road.
“I’m just involved in bush clearing because I had been granted permission by the Ministry of Environment Natural Resource Conservation subsequent to the Ministry of Land Management Water and Sanitation Services approving permission to go ahead with the project,” he said.
Jamali further stated that the Road Department under the Ministry of Transport and Communications was aware of his decision to construct the road.
However, the Department Roads Manager, Doreen Moapare denied that they had been involved the construction of the road in question.
The South East District Council (SEDC) has weighed in demanding that Jamali halts the project insisting it is encroaching into land allocated to Batlokwa Trust.
According to the SEDC Chairman, Phenyo Segokgo the council advised Jamali through the council secretary to stop the construction that was done in the council planning area without the knowledge of the council.
Segokgo indicated that in the absence of consultation with the council the tribal leaders raised concern that the construction of the road has since encroached into the land allocated to Batlokwa Trust.
SEDC Council Secretary Lebuile Israel confirmed that he had since informed Jamali to halt the construction of the road after the council became aware that it had encroached on some properties in Tlokweng.
Landboard Chairman Thuso Bogatsu told Sunday Standard that the landboard has never granted approval for the construction of the road.
“This issue has never been discussed or been on the agenda in several board meetings that we had,” added Bogatsu.
Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Thatayaone Dedede said permission was granted with conditions that had to be fulfilled before construction of the road could commence which include amongst others obtaining an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approved by the relevant authority being the Department of Environmental Affairs.
Environment Natural Resources Conservation Ministry, Deputy Permanent Secretary Thabang Botshoma said that an EIA report for the project is currently under review by Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).