Zambia, Botswana have 28 days ultimatum to pay contractor
The relationship between Daewoo – contracted for the Kazungula bridge project – and the governments of Botswana and Zambia has hit rock bottom due the failure to pay the company. As it is the project sits in a precarious state of collapsing any time, admitted Minister of Transport and Communications Dorcas Makgato on Thursday.
Makgato briefed Parliament on the status of the Kazungula Bridge Project on Thursday, but said Botswana government was doing its best as a partner with regards to its contribution.
She was however cagey with details when quizzed about whether the Zambian Government was not delivering on its end of the deal.
Makgato revealed that the project is currently besieged by cash flow difficulties emanating from the fact that the Contractor has, for some time not been, timely and regularly paid by the employer (Botswana and Zambia) governments.
She said based on this hiccup, the Contractor (Daewoo) has since instituted contractual rights to slow-down, suspend workers and possibly terminate the contract; if the employer does not correct the situation by paying and demonstrating a capacity to timely pay; henceforth.
“The project is currently under serious crisis with the risk of it collapsing at near time cannot be ruled out, as the situation stands. Nonetheless the above inclination, the project faces the high risk of failure, demands appropriate and timely interventions. I cannot say if Botswana or Zambia should take blame no, but know there is a serious crisis,” she said.
Moreover, she noted that the two governments are currently racing against a contractual 28-day correction period, failing which the contractor will have a legitimate basis to give and effect a 14-day Notice of Termination.
“We have a problem and I wish to assure this Parliament that the Botswana government is in active engagement with the Zambian government with a view to correcting the out of control situation. We must do anything to mitigate the huge opportunity costs. This is a project of major significance not only to the two countries, but the regional economy in respect to facilitating trade within and across SADC beyond,” she said.
She said since effective of 18th March, the Contractor has given formal notice of suspension of works on the main aspect of the bridge project.
The stern action by the Contractor primarily affects the major work of the project being Package 1; the bridge itself. The delays in Package 1, anticipated to be complete on April 2020, will adversely affect Packages 2 and 3; being the One Stop Border Posts in Botswana and Zambia respectively.
MPs cut in
Although the MPs appreciated the efforts by the minister to brief parliament on the status of huge project which is likely to be hurt based on the existing conditions, they took the minister to task about the developments
Outspoken Nata/Gweta MP Paulson Majaga said it is not enough for the minister to tell the Parliament about the situation, asking her to reveal the exact cause of the problem.
He said there should be one who should take blame between the three engaged stakeholders being the Contractor, Botswana and Zambia governments.
“You cannot just say there is a crisis which yes is a cause for concern for all of us but why are you not pointing out who is to be blamed in this mess; just appraise us the on the deep true facts of the matter,” Majaga said.
Gabane/Mmankgodi legislator Pius Mokgware bemoaned the secrecy that has been behind the project, saying Parliament was never briefed about it.
Mokgware has also challenged the minister to appraise parliament on the number of Batswana employed in the project, and accused the minister of negligence when she said she does not have any information with regards to the MP’s question.
About Kazungula bridge
The Kazungula Bridge (Road cum Railway) Construction Project is a multi–nation and border crossing project linking Botswana and Zambia who are also funding it. Objectives of the project, which is valued at P2.72 billion, are to improve the efficiency of transit traffic through the Kazungula border; mainly to facilitate trade activities and global competitiveness of Botswana and Zambia.