BY PORTIA NKANI
The month of June 2020 has been set at the new deadline for the handover of the Kazungula Bridge project.
The project, which is expected to link Botswana to Zambia, was initially slated to be completed by March 2019 but the contractor failed to reach the target date due to lack of payments from the Zambia government.
The Kazungula Bridge is a joint project between the two neighbouring southern African nations who also are member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
On Monday, the contractor – Daewoo said the Package 1; being the bridge itself is four to five months behind schedule and is scheduled for completion in June 2020, and Packages 2 being the One Stop Border Posts in Botswana is 95 percent complete and will be done by October this year whilst package 3 of the one stop border post in Zambia is scheduled to be complete in February 2020.
The delay came after Daewoo earlier this year complained that clients ÔÇô Botswana Government and Zambian Government had not paid and as such instructed workers not to come to work.
At the time of the mishaps, on the Botswana side both the minister and her permanent secretary have gone on record to say they have paid what they are supposed to pay. The same could not be said about Zambia.
At the time, the minister of Transport and Communication, Dorcas Makgato explained that “Based on this difficulty, the contractor (Daewoo) has instituted his contractual rights to slow down, suspend works and possibly terminate the contract; if the employer does not correct the situation by paying, and demonstrating a capacity to timely pay henceforth.”
On March 18, 2019, the contractor has given formal notice of suspension of works on the main aspect of the bridge.
The action primarily affected Package 1; being the bridge itself, and extension delays in dealing with Package 1 adversely affecting Packages 2 and 3; being the One Stop Border Posts in Botswana and Zambia.
Some of the key stakeholders in the project ÔÇô the Botswana Railways and Zambia Railways met this week in Kasane to appraise themselves on the progress made at the project. Amongst other things, the bridge encompasses the construction of a railway between the two SADC countries.
Lubinga Linyama Chairman of the Zambia Railways told journalists touring the project that the feasibility for the railway line is going to be done. “In Zambia Railway we have already done the feasibility, however it is too early to tell on the timelines. We still have to agree on the trucking sheet of activities,” he said.
For his part, Botswana Railways, Chairman Adolf Hirschfield said the Environmental Impact Assessment considerations for the Mosetse Kazungula Railway are yet to be taken into account.
Asked on how the Botswana Railways will address the wildlife conflict on the rail project from the Mosetse pathway to Kazungula, Hirschfield stressed that, “we have benchmarked on a model from Kenya where they were constructing along a national park. We will construct it at a certain height where it will not affect the natural faura of wildlife.”
The Bridge is regarded as very important to Botswana’s economic ambitions to transport goods into central Africa.
The country is set to construct a railway line between Mosetse and Kazungula villages which will connect Central African region to maritime ports in South Africa through Botswana.
This will also be an opportunity for tourism industry as an alternative transport mode for agricultural products from Pandamatenga farms in Botswana. Mosetse Kazungula rail link serves as key to Botswana Railways growth strategy.