Friday, May 24, 2024

Where is the P11 billion Morupule B that has long been promised?

A few years ago, the Botswana Government announced that it was commissioning the construction of a P11 billion power station at Morupule.

That announcement was welcomed by many Batswana as the only hope of saving the country from what was impending meltdown.

While construction of the power station was on its own commendable, the interesting thing is that it was belated and long overdue.

Despite many past projections that there was going to be power shortages owing to increased demand both in Botswana and South Africa, Botswana government took inordinately long times to act until it was too late.

When a decision to build Morupule B was made, the delays from the past inevitably put unnecessary pressure on contractors, suppliers and officials alike.

It has to be noted that many of the inputs like turbines and furnaces that make part of the components used in building a power station are not bought off the shelf.

Procuring them is a long, tedious, cross-national and sophisticated process.
With the market awash with counterfeits and fakes, it also is a very risky and potentially dangerous undertaking.
Companies involved in producing such equipment only start even manufacturing the same when orders have been made, contracts have been signed and payments have been delivered.

Thus just to build a power station, it means long periods of times are spent, not on construction per se but on preparing the groundwork, which, given the amount of money involved, also includes negotiating credit with a plethora of financiers and creditors, many of whom, needless to say, are not domiciled in the country.

While all that mammoth task of behind the scenes work was continuing, power was itself already in short supply.

Small businesses who are the backbone of the economy employing large numbers of people but existing on the cliffs as a result of small margins were themselves already feeling the pinch.

Many could not survive the endless outages of four years ago which, as many Batswana would recall, literally pushed many a small business to the knackers.

However grim the situation, solace was, however, drawn from the fact that an announcement had been made that government of Botswana was building a power plant. Together with that announcement was a catalogue of datelines which effectively made it known when the new power plant will be producing electricity into existing national grid.

Those companies that could survive the outage onslaughts made expensive contingency plans effectively taking into account the government’s word for it that electricity was on its way.

As it turns out, we now are made to believe that it has not turned out as it was planned; the outages are back and are poised to be worse than before. Effectively people will now be poorer than they were when they were promised Morupule B.

This time around, the South African authorities who had continued to be our benefactors during what we thought were unbearable times have switched off the plug as they also have to take care of their own shortfalls which, by the way, have also been growing.

The key question to ask ourselves now is where is Morupule B?

Why is it not delivering the power for which it was created to do?
What has happened to P11 billion?

To answer these questions we have to go back to the early days when the contractors of Morupule B were chosen.

To their credit the Chinese Embassy in Botswana had raised a red flag warning Botswana authorities that the integrity of preferred companies from China were suspect. The Embassy could not vouch for them.

Unfortunately, we neither heeded the advice and warning of the Embassy nor did we commit a thorough background check for ourselves.

The result has been that we have been sold a dummy. And we now are paying a price.
We use Morupule B only as an example.

There are many other cases of gross unaccountability that are currently grid-locking the country and milking the nation.

We could talk about Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, which was supposed to be a part of the 2010 World Cup games in South Africa. The airport remains unfinished. And the contractor has left the site. A legal wrangling continues!

We may talk about the National Stadium, which has not been in use for close to five years now.
We may talk about the Serowe Stadium, which, after completion, could not be used because it posed danger to people as it was built in a structurally defective ground.

We may talk about the Francistown Stadium, which, after completion, had to be brought down because the structural angles were wrong.

The most recent is the education mess.

The list is endless.

In all these, nobody has been held to account.

When one gets to remember that when he arrived onto the scene, President Khama was depicted as Papa Action, then one cannot help but conclude that we were sold a toy phone.
Lack of concern at the top is appalling.

With Morupule B clearly not about to deliver, it is now a given that many small businesses that had survived despite the lack of economic imagination will now go belly up because of the effects of renewed power outages we are experiencing.

Unaccountability is the one constant that has been present since President Ian Khama came to office.
From the look of things, it is the only constant that he will take away with himself when he leaves office.

Just why has he not sacked a single member of his cabinet for a clear case of poor performance when the landscape is littered with so many examples of poor delivery?
We shall probably never know the true answer.

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