Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

3 August 2007

Botswana: Completion of Mahalapye-Dibete Road Re-Scheduled for December

Contractors building the P170 million Mahalapye-Dibete section of the A1 Highway have had to change their timetable due to "insurmountable" problems

To regular users of this road who are not aware of the problems bedevilling the project, construction seems to be going on forever. The road is considerably behind schedule. The project was scheduled for completion in 24 months, with a completion date set at May 11, 2007. It involves construction of 83.6 kilometres of the highway and 2.7 kilometres of access roads.

But Arab Contractors Botswana (Pty) Ltd., the builders of the road, says the final section will only be handed over to Government on December 31.

Mustafa Sakka, the site agent, says the delay is largely over crushed stones. The project requires 300 000 cubic metres for the base of the road and 30 000 cubic metres for surface.

Sakka says Arab Contractors ordered a stone crusher from the United Kingdom for the purpose. But when the machine arrived at Durban-port in South Africa, it was discovered that new stone crusher had been broken during shipping.

The crusher was shipped back to the UK and a replacement dispatched. Sakka says though they are trying very hard to stick to the original timetable, this delayed them for nearly a year.

But their problems became even more complicated last May. The project requires a particular quality of stone available from Mmokolodi Quarry near Gaborone. This entailed numerous trucks ferrying the stones to site.

However, villagers in the area through which the road leading to the quarry runs began to complain about the trucks, eventually sealing off the road on May 27.

Arab Contractors is now sourcing stones from Panda Quarry in Francistown. They have also been allowed to make two to three trips per day on the controversial road to the Mmokolodi Qaurry.

It is a tedious process: the stones are offloaded at a Botswana Railways site, loaded onto rail wagons and offloaded at various sites along the road under construction. "These delays are costing our company a lot," Sakka says.

The timetable now is divided into three stages. The first section of is to be handed over to Government by mid-September, the second bit at the end of October, and the final stretch at the end of December.

The project currently employs 574 Batswana, who include 53 technical and 16 administrative staff. The rest are labourers. Most workers come from Mahalapye and a handful from Phalla. There are 54 non-citizens.

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