Gaborone’s top end suburb Phakalane is haunted by frequent power outages. The estate’s managers have been pleading with both government and the power utility, the Botswana Power Corporation, for years to have their power quota increased but to no avail. The situation has recently gotten out of hand, with at least one outage spanning days every month.
Phakalane Chairman, David Magang, confirmed the constant outages and said he has been personally in touch with government as early as 2003.
Up to now, government has not honoured their promise to increase Phakalane power ration.
Ironically, Magang is a former senior minister of Minerals and Water Affairs, a ministry responsible for energy security in Botswana.
The situation at Phakalane is becoming so dire so much that some residents have resorted to buying stand-by generators.
This despite the fact that BPC outlaws the use of such generators unless with their explicit permission.
Phakalane’s woes come even before the BPC contract with the South African utility Eskom expires.
The contract is due to expire in December, by which time power shortages are predicted to become more entrenched.
Interestingly, by then, Phakalane would have become home to the current President Festus Mogae who has chosen the suburb as host of his retirement home.
Mogae retires next year much.
An insider at the Ministry of Minerals said the power problems faced by Botswana are a result of poor planning; a result of a shortage of engineers and technical people at the ministry.
As a result, the ministry always relied on BPC which not only hid information to protect itself but also spent a sizeable part of this decade without substantive leadership and CEO.
“We must not forget that the BPC had a citizen CEO sacked and from there went on and on without a head. The person who came in was not only on acting capacity but was also an expatriate who lacked the confidence to take big and serious decisions,” said the ministry official on condition anonymity.
He said it was exactly because of the absence of leadership that BPC did nothing to kick start the expansion of Morupule power station earlier even as it was known then that the whole region would experience power crisis going forward.
He said the truth is that South Africa, which caters for close to 80 percent of Botswana’s energy needs, has its own shortages.
“We cannot talk about the Mmamabula project because it will be at least five years before it starts, if it starts at all,” said the same officer.