President Mokgweetsi Masisi may have to invoke his powers to save the entire southern region from a looming drought spell likely to affect even large dams in the north of the country that currently supply the greater Gaborone area.
The Monitor can reveal that some time in December last year the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) director general, Peter Magosi shared a disturbing water security report with Cabinet.
The report detailed how in two or three years’ time the greater Gaborone area, which is the economic hub of the country, could be revisited by a prolonged hydrological drought that could hit the country for more years to come. After sharing the report with the then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, the DIS was informed that there was a water tender awarded to Khato Civils by Water Utilities Corporation, which seemed most suitable to mitigate the looming crisis.
According to Magosi, he was informed that of the four water projects in the pipeline the 100km Masama-Mmamashia water project, already awarded to Khato Civils, would be completed in the shortest time possible and that it would achieve great results at a lesser cost than other North-South water projects in the pipeline.
However, Magosi said the former water minister would later call him and warned against the appointed contractor, Khato Civils, alleging it was a corrupt entity.
“I don’t operate on whims, I encouraged the minister to furnish me with evidence of such to help us, unfortunately he didn’t.”
The DIS boss also said signs of tender wars in Cabinet began to appear when the project, which was expected to be treated as an emergency, dragged on despite the security advice on the water situation.
“We definitely are aware of the impending water crisis and the adequate solution to it, but we can only advise, and that’s how far we can go, even the President has our intelligence report on water security, so we have done our part, despite Parliament trashing us,” Magosi told The Monitor in a phone interview Friday, after Parliament defeated the budget proposal for the emergency project the night before.
During the budget proposal debate on Thursday night, Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila, warned Parliament that big dams in the north that are currently supplying the southern part of the country including the greater Gaborone area, are projected to dry up due to a forecast hydrological drought that would run for two seasons in the next three years.
Motivating budget allocation for the newly awarded 100km water tender, the Masama-Mmamashia, Mzwinila said the new project was Botswana’s innovative solution to the coming drought so that when it hits as expected, they would not be caught off guard.
Mzwinila also said the southern region, which is targeted to benefit from the project is also currently facing resource strain as many boreholes watering several villages are already drying up due to overuse, hence the 100km water project would have come as a relief to the villages. The minister also said the Masama-Mmamashia project would save government millions of pula as many villages currently rely on boused water, which costs government P400,000 a day and is unsustainable.
He added that it was of critical importance to prioritise the 100km water project ahead of the North-South Water Carrier 2.2, which would not solve the impending drought situation, as there will be no water to pump from the dams for two years of the anticipated severe drought.
Mzwinila said even with the North-South Water Carrier 2.2, but without the Masama-Mmamashia 100km project the southern region would still remain in dire need of water, hence necessitating the Masama-Mmamashia project. The minister hailed the Masama-Mmamashia project as a game changer as it would pump 64 million litres of water per day for use by people in 18 constituencies.
He also said the project was more attractive to implement since it would take only 12 months while the North-South Water Carrier 2.2 would take seven years to complete. Furthermore, the minister said there are no plans to abandon the North-South Water Carrier 2.2, adding that it would be added to other projects as time goes on.
Earlier on Finance Minister, Kenneth Matambo requested Parliament to approve the 100km Masama-Mmamashia project into the NDP 11, as well as its P900 million budget. Matambo said the project funding would, nonetheless, not seek a new funding source, but would use funds previously allocated for the Lobatse Water Master Plan and part of the North-South Water Carrier 2.2 budget.
Matambo said the proposal for the new 100km water project comes at a time when the greater Gaborone alone has a shortfall of 35 million litres of water.
Still, the debates on the project went nowhere after chairperson of Parliamentary Finance Committee, Ignatius Moswaane moved that the project be rejected and called for the reinstatement of a Chinese contractor Jiansu, which was fired recently while doing water works along the 100km pipeline.
Maun East Member of Parliament, Kosta Marcus was disappointed with the Finance Committee report saying it failed to pin point the alleged corruption and fraud in the project.
Parliament for the most part got to a standstill as members hackled one another. Amidst all this, the minister for water and the chairperson of the Finance Committee kept on interrupting each other.
It was apparent that the opposition bloc, with the assistance of unlikely friends in the ruling party, were opposed to the project, as allegations of Khato Civils being used as the ruling party fundraiser gained momentum via social media platforms during the debate.
Speaking to The Monitor on Friday, Matambo said Parliament’s outcome does not affect the award of the tender to Khato Civils, as it is not the House’s business to adjudicate tender awards.
He said as such the 100km Masama-Mmamashia tender award remains valid, unless it is legally challenged. Asked whether the project could still go ahead via a Presidential directive after the rejection, Matambo said he would rather not proceed with the project out of respect for Parliament.
Magosi, in the meantime, is of the view that the lives of the communities in this matter should come first and as such Parliament has disappointed the people.
“We are not joking about the seriousness of the water crisis in the greater Gaborone area, it is reflecting even right now, in hospitals, schools, in villages, including main villages, and we were told by the water ministry’s permanent secretary that of all the water projects they have, this one and nothing else, was the most appropriate and timely, so the President knows what to do looking at the desperate situation right now,” enthused Magosi.
Mzwinila, nevertheless, did not want to say whether Masisi would have to intervene with a Presidential directive to rescue the situation. “I did my part, but people chose to go to Parliament with unfounded allegations and untruths, despite being briefed by water engineers here for weeks about this project. But they chose to trash the wisdom of our experts in the water sector,” said a disappointed Mzwinila.
“I don’t want to comment on whether the President should use his powers to give communities water, since those are his powers, but I did my all.”
Meanwhile, Vice President Slumber Tsogwane during the debate lashed out at fellow MPs accusing them of being captured by commercial interests.
He said the current debate shed light on how legislators can neglect their parliamentary duties just to fight tender wars in Parliament on behalf of certain interests other than the people’s and their constituencies’.