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Gov't Gets Go-Ahead In P1.5bn Tender

GOITSEMODIMO KAELO
LOBATSE HIGH COURT
Government has been given the green light to finalise the P1.5 billion contract with Chinese contractor, Zhengtai Group Botswana after Lobatse High Court ruled in the company’s favour against China Jiangsu International.

China Jiangsu International has been fighting a messy battle with Botswana government over a P1.5 billion Moshupa Primary Hospital tender after the latter was snubbed in the tender award amidst allegations of security threats. The project is scheduled to be finished in the next two and half years.

According to court papers, the Chinese-owned construction company, which was amongst the other 19 bidders for the tender was disqualified on the basis of information obtained from the Directorate of Intelligence and Security, essentially that it is engaged in massive corrupt practices which threatened national security.

The company launched an application for urgent interim interdict review seeking an order to prevent government from signing a contract with Zhengtai Group, and proceeding with execution of the said contract, arguing that it has been unlawfully deprived of the tender.

Last Friday, Judge Jennifer Dube ruled in government’s favour and dismissed the application with costs and discharged the moratorium issued on May 3, 2019 that temporarily halted the signing of the contract by Zhengtai Group Botswana and the project owners, Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development.

Justice Dube said it would be detrimental to the interests of the public in terms of delay or depriving the citizenry of health facilities if the tender was halted. She also said in this particular case, the Court was forced to weigh the interest of the public against the company’s commercial interest. She also argued that the applicant could always institute an action for damages against the respondents, whilst government could be subjected to devastating consequences on an important public project.

“The Respondent contends that the balance of convenience is heavily tilted against the Applicant for the Applicant’s interests are purely narrow commercial

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as opposed to the overwhelming public interest in having the tender executed expeditiously,” she said. “The Respondent argues that if interdict is granted, the execution of the tender is likely to stall for months if not years. The delay would severely harm the public. I am satisfied that the balance of convenience favours government in that there would be substantial prejudice to the public at large and that there is a general public outcry for services such as are on offer under this tender.”

Dube further said there was no evidence of damage nor irreparable harm to the applicant if it did not obtain an interdict.

“Averments by the Applicant managing director that the prejudice to be suffered by the applicant far outweighs that of the Respondents if interdict is not granted is so vague that it does not assist the Court in measuring and appreciating such harm. There is no obvious nor clear evidence that the applicant will suffer prejudice,” she added. She argued that in the event the Applicant won after review, the company could be compensated for damages.

Meanwhile, Dube indicated that she was not particularly impressed with the serious and untested corruption allegations levelled against government officials who were assigned roles of responsibility and trust by the Applicant.

She stated that the allegation amounted to reckless and odious posturing or generalisation, which she said, should find no accommodation or space in a proper court process.

Dube described the averments as scandalous and cautioned the Applicants for trying to use the court to spread propaganda that projects others as irredeemable crooks who will go to all lengths in order to gain from public projects at the expense of others.



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