On Thursday, the Minister responsible for Water and Energy, Kitso Mokaila held a press conference to give the nation an update on the service or lack there-of, provision by BPC and WUC. We commend the Minister for a job well done. He remains amongst the few Ministers in this country who are not media-shy. Unlike his counterparts, Mokaila never fails to hold press conference if there is need.
In as much as we are grateful to Mokaila for doing his job, what is rather disturbing is the fact that we believe he has been feeding us the same old tired rhetoric, ‘we are working around the clock to fix things.’ That’s boring. Key amongst Mokaila and the two Chief Executive Officers’ (CEO) address was the crisis that we find ourselves in. BPC, as we all now know has terribly mismanaged the energy supply expansion project through the ill-fated Morupule B power project, a multi-billion Pula investment that has somewhat disappeared down the drain.
For almost four years now the country has been subjected to cold winter seasons. It is not only a question of lights and televisions. Our refrigerators can no longer keep food fresh. Water pumps hardly work. Lifts stands idle and production companies continue to slash their productions levels to undesired levels. All this can be traced back to the poor service that is rampant in the water and energy sectors. Government does not need to be reminded that its failure to invest in new plants, lack of maintenance of existing plants such as the old Morupule power plant as well as a very slow development of private producer market, are some of the factors that have led to the power deficit that we are facing now. The real scandal, of course, is the woeful inability of cabinet to select a credible and competent company to build a power station out of what was to be Morupule B.
As we had previously noted, the BPC has for a very long time been allowed to become a feeding pot, not just for bogus Chinese contractors but also for the many citizens who are associated with those Chinese. It is therefore our sincere hope that the appointment of consultants at BPC last year marked an end of era in which the utility was a ‘feeding pot’ for these business associates. Perhaps it is also worth noting that, with all these several power cuts, it is a source of immense shame that to this date, government has not found it necessary to do an audit of how this power interruptions and delays at Morupule B, will in the overall affect Botswana’s economy, especially small and medium businesses. On the other hand, Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) seems to be on a mission to outdo its sister Corporation in a twisted competition to shed more than the other. Although the issue was not deliberated at length on Thursday, a myriad of technical problems combined with a marked decline in rainfall, particularly in the south of Botswana where the water supply situation is deplorable, have conspired to sound a death knell for the bed ridden WUC.
The public outcry against WUC’s poor water supply service in the country has been dismissed as not being the fault of WUC, but rather an indication of the extent of water supply challenges in the country. That could be true, but how about the pipes that burst week in week out? How about the multi million Pula North South pipeline project, is it failing because of nature as well? This panic stricken utility has since implemented what is popularly known as water-shedding and issued numerous warnings to its clients. WUC seems to be far from stopping to sing its song, “You may experience low pressure to no water supply.” In as much we know and agree that it will take time to normalise, it is worrisome that both WUC and BPC seems uncertain about when they will end this emotional abuse that they have since subjected Batswana to. What is even more worrisome is the fact that we risk losing potential investors. No serious investor would want to set up in a country with no water, no energy and high labour mismatch. The #Bottom-line however is that the energy and water sectors remain strategic and pivotal to unleashing our country’s economic and social potential for the advancement for all the citizenry. As such, BPC and WUC should never be put on auto pilot, as has been the case for quite some time now.