Four years since it was put up for tender, the Water Utilities Corporation's 100 km sweet water project from the Masama aquifer to Mmamashia is finally up and running.
It has been two weeks now since the contractor, Khato Civils, set up base at Artesia, from where bulldozers have been busy with bush clearing to mark the pathway along which trenching activities and associated works will be carried out.
Country manager Ishmael Maposa says they are currently finalising appointments of the work force needed for the project, following advertisements for jobs in the local media in April.
Despite hitches brought about by Corona, expatriates engineers are already at the site, after undergoing the mandatory 14 days covid 19 quarantine and tests, while designs and drawings for the project have also been submitted.
Group CEO Mongezi Mnyani promised to deliver a world class end product synonymous with their golden touch, as they have already shown with delivery of two pump stations project for WUC in the North. According to Mnyane they pride in completing projects on time and within budget.
Mnyani said over the years Khato Civils invested over R1.7 billion in advanced technology like tesmic trenchers, also known as rockeaters; each machines accomplishes in one day, what would otherwise take 20 excavators; “we have all the machinery we need and are able to establish a site within one day after being appointed”, the CEO said, adding that their grade 9 ratings, the highest possible industry ratings, in electrical engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, general buildings, as well as ISO certifications, are also proof of their world class capabilities.
The pipeline will be the first of its kind in the North South Water Carrier 2.2 scheme to deliver sweet water from the Masama aquifer on a dedicated pipeline, ensuring that it would need minimal treatment as it will not be transferred on the same pipeline for raw water from the dams.
The Masama Mmamashia pipeline, initially awarded for P900 000 000, is seen as critical in the provision of reliable water supply to the heavily distressed southern part of Botswana which include the nerve centre of the national economy, the Greater Gaborone, Kgatleng, Kweneng, Ngwaketse, Lobatse, all the way to Goodhope in Borolong.
The Masama Mmamashia pipeline is as huge a political statement, as it is economical.
In the water stressed southern region which is the nerve centre of the national economy, President Mokgweetsi Masisi's political campaigns ahead of the 2019 elections which he resoundingly won, were punctuated by this water project promise and the economic benefits it would unlock for the economy and its people.
The commencement of this project is in many ways President Masisi’s fulfilment of election campaign promise.
President Masisi had earlier that August 2019 seen his plans to have the pipeline fast tracked during the 2019 drought frustrated by tender wars that ran deep inside his cabinet, and technocrats as they backed rival competitors, CCC or Khato Civils for the same tender.It was subsequently sabotaged in a controversial parliament vote, resulting in the postponement of the project to this new financial year, having now been budgeted for and included in the National Development plan in the normal process.
Masama 100km project creates 500 jobs
Meanwhile executors of the pipeline project have told Mmegi they expect more than 500 jobs to be created directly during the various stages of the project.
Toro Motiki, of Khato Civils Botswana told Mmegi that they have a deliberate policy to recruit the chunk of the labour force from villages along the pipeline.
The communities along the pipeline are Leshibitse, Artesia, Rasesa and Bokaa.
The Water Utilities Corporation have already held kgotla meetings at the four villages with the contractor, alerting the communities about the opportunities at hand which can also greatly benefit local small businesses.
Motiki hailed the communities consultation process as profound. He explained how their first
Responding to the tribal authorities’ CSI request for funding for community development projects Khato civils elaborated on their commitment to assisting the communities where they operate.
The contractor further promised to involve the communities through their local leadership for suggestion of any community development initiatives.
Khato civils Group brand architect Neo Molefakgotla explained that consultations and close working relationships is imbeded in the company’s CSI culture and has thus become their identity and signature, as exemplified by their long running P5 million bursary fund, more than P5 million invested in classroom blocks and furniture in Limpopo, classroom blocks at Mmadinare, construction of a full-fledged school in Malawi, to name few.
“Benevolence is one of our organisation’s pillars. This goes beyond just wishing people well ; for us it is about actively participating to ensure it happens; it is about showing compassion towards others and valuing them just because they are human beings ” Molefakgotla explained, adding that they also use the stakeholder engagement meetings to explain Khato civils’ philosophy as an equal opportunity employer.
“The kgotla meetings had multiple objectives. Firstly, the project will impact the community in several ways. As a result, it is important for us to introduce the project and the main contractor (Khato Civils), to community leaders in the villages along the pipeline”, Molefakgotla added.
“It would be highly unprofessional for us to start implementing the project, without introducing ourselves to the stakeholders and discussing the various implications of the project with them”.
“Secondly, the project presents a number of opportunities for the community, such as job creation, skills transfer, and informal sector participation, amongst others. These opportunities were discussed at the meetings and clarification was provided. Issues of fairness in employing community members were also discussed”, the brand architect explained.
On CSI, Molefakgotla observed that often there are more community needs than what their financial resources enable them to address. “It is important for us to manage community expectations, so that no one has the impression we will address all community needs”.
“ In all our projects we ascertain what the social needs are in the community, then assist to the best of our ability, within our limited budget. We are taking the same approach on this project and further discussions will take place until there’s consensus on which CSI initiative to undertake", Molefakgotla said.
According to the water utilities CEO Gaselemogwe Senai despite the distractions that the project experienced last year when it was identified as solution to droughts, it remains an emergency project and therefore urgent.
As an emergency project, WUC has targeted to complete the project inside 12 months despite covid 19 challenges, according to the WUC chief.
He acknowledged that the corona virus threat has emerged as new health threat to communities that are water stressed like the southern region, where Greater Gaborone has water deficit of 30 percent.
The urgent need to fast track water provision projects like the Masama 100km during the covid 19 pandemic has also been stressed by the Finance and Economic Affairs Minister, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, and the Water Resources Minister, Kefentse Muzwinila on live television broadcasts during the early days of the covid 19.
Khato civils beat 12 others in a competitive bid to emerge the best. Their bid saved government over 200 000 000 million pula at the time while offering the best technical solutions. Competitors included Chinese multinationals famous for their low cost bids.