From conception, the 100km Masama–Mmamashia Pipeline was controversial. Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the pipeline was one of President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s strongest campaign tools.
Greater Gaborone, especially, places like Tlokweng, Kweneng, Moshopa, Molepolole and Kanye to mention but a few, have been running dry taps for years. When President Masisi promised them that their thirst would be quenched by the 100km pipeline which would pump megalitres of water into their taps, the President garnered votes. President Masisi pushed for the project to be pursued. This was despite well-publisised resistance from some MPs, members of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which is under Masisi’s captaincy, among them.
The resistance was based on whether Khato Civils (Pty) Ltd, a company which was directly awarded the P800 million tender would be able to deliver the project, based on some controversies the company had faced outside Botswana. Further, the direct appointment also raised eyebrows, with many questions being asked about the relationship between Khato Civils owner Simbi Phiri and the ruling elite. Nonetheless, arguments were raised that the project was necessary to resolve the longstanding water shortages and that construction of the 100km pipeline, which was to be undertaken in just 12 months, would save the government almost P1 billion as compared to construction of the North South Career 2 (NSC 2), which was also expected to take longer than the 100km pipeline.
So controversial was the tender that some senior WUC executives lost their jobs for opposing it. The project was pursued despite the boardroom wars at WUC and the political disapprovals. All went well, if the Khato Civils publicity campaigns at the time were anything to go by. Fast-forward to October 2021, the project is commissioned post completion. President Masisi was the guest of honour at a ceremony held at the time to commission the pipeline.
It emerges now that the pipeline has defects and is unable to operate at its planned capacity. An investigation by this publication has established that Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) requirements may have been compromised. What comes to the fore is information that the 100km Masama Pipeline currently pumps water at only 20 percent of the design/construction project scope. The Business Weekly & Review has discovered that the scope contracted and paid for required the 100KM pipeline to pump 64 Mega Liters (ML) of water per day, but with the pipeline pumping only 20 percent of the 64ML/day, it means that 13ML/day, which was not the project scope, is what is currently being pumped.
Sadly, this has been known by WUC and Khato Civils, the contractor, and is being kept under wraps. Of the utmost importance in the project is that there is what is called Defects Liability Period (DLP), a period following the practical completion of a project, usually 6 or 12 months, during which the contractor (Khato Civils) retains liability under the contract for dealing with any defects that manifest. It is also known as a rectification period.
The Business Weekly & Review understands that while this happens, there is only five months left before the Defects Liabilty Period (DLP) elapses. It emerges that an increase in pumping volumes by WUC to attempt to meet the 64ML/day project target has been all in vain. It appears an increase above 13ML/day would result in pipe bursts and breakdowns along the entire length of the 100km pipeline. It would seem the only hope is an imminent audit/assessment to quantify the required extended repair/redo work for the estimated costs for the defects correction works before the DLP elapses in August/September 2022 (5 months) after which the contractors responsible will be absolved of the sub-standard and low quality work delivered for the P800 million national strategic water supply project.
Should the DLP lapse, the entire costs of repairing defects would then be transferred to the taxpayer, and it is estimated that it would exceed a P100 million. In an interview however, WUC responds that there is no challenge or defect experienced on the Masama pipeline. According to Alice Mmolawa, Chief Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services (MLMWS), the pipeline is perfectly functional. This publication asked Mmolawa whether is it correct that post-commissioning, the pipeline was supposed to pump 64 mega litres per day (ML/d).
“Yes, it is correct, post-commissioning the pipeline has capacity to pump up to 64Ml/d per day,” she responds. Regarding whether the pipeline is currently pumping 64 mega litres per day as per its planned capacity, her response is rather ambiguous. “The pipeline is currently pumping as per the demand downstream,” Mmolawa says. “Note that pursuant to our principle of conjunctive use of resources, groundwater is intended to augment surface water, not the other way round. Greater Gaborone is supplied from Gaborone Dam, Molatedi Dam, Bokaa Dam and the North-South Water Carrier. Masama Wellfield is pumped to meet the deficit from these sources, which was 30ML/day prior to the scheme.”
She adds that the scheme stands ready to pump at maximum capacity whenever there is a need to. Moreover, says Mmolawa, demand is expected to increase after completion of the Lobatse Water Master Plan Project, Gamononyane Molepolole NSC Connection Project, and the Goodhope Water Supply Augmentation Scheme Phase 2.2. According to her, these will increase demand, making it necessary for the scheme to maximise pumping to its full capacity of 64Ml/d. In essence, she says, that the pipeline is pumping at only 20 percent of its planned capacity is incorrect. “The pipeline is pumping in line with the demand as indicated,” she insists.
The Business Weekly & Review further asked about the Gaborone downstream Greater Kanye deficit and why the Masama Pipeline cannot be pumped more than 20 percent to meet the Greater Kanye area demand, seeing that Lobatse augmentation is still waiting for the LWSM project completion before Masama is increased to meet Greater Lobatse demand. The Business Weekly & Review understands that Greater Kanye and Greater Lobatse demands are downstream Gaborone demands. As a result, any project undertaken to meet demand should form priority of the “Water Balance” Key Perfomance Indicators (KPIs) Strategic objective/initiative aimed at striking a balance between supply versus demand.
For WUC to be competently performing on their “Water Balance” Strategic/Executive KPI – Supply has to equal Demand (Supply = Demand) – or exceptionally exceed Demand (Supply > Demand). At WUC, Mmolawa persists that water supply in Kanye, Moshopa and Thamaga meets demand. Infact, she has this to say: “The absence of water from taps does not translate into supply deficit. Water supply interruption may result from factors such as network deficiency and electricity interruptions for pumping as it is prevalent in the corridor.”
According to her, this explains an upcoming project to rehabilitate the Kanye water reticulation network to provide more coverage. The Business Weekly & Review understands that the deficit which Mmolawa speaks about was to cancel out after the Masama 100km pipeline becomes operational. This publication asked Mmolawa why WUC is not pumping from Masama to augment Greater Kanye (Thamaga/Moshopa/Kanye) 17MLl/day deficit. When the 100km pipeline and the Kanye NSC pipeline are completed and there is 64Ml/day, it means there is an unutilized 51.2Ml/day sitting at Masama Wellfield, and yet there is not enough water in Thamaga/Moshupa/Kanye and Molepolole.
Her response is that groundwater is intended to augment surface water, hence the Masama wellfield is used to fill the deficit in Greater Gaborone so there is no need to maximise pumping to its full capacity of 64Ml/d.
Kanye NSC, which came at the cost of around P1billion, was commissioned by MLWS and Cabinet in 2018/2019. It was to convey at the least the sequenced Masama-Kanye 17ML/day, once NSC2.2 and/or Masama 100km was completed, whichever came first (NSC2.2 or Masama 100km). Three years down the line , the Kanye NSC still has no water conveyed to the Greater Kanye even a year after the Masama 100km completion, and the Kanye NSC infrastructure is unutilized, running the risk of mechanical/electrical/structural delipidation. One would have thought the MLWS would have had the Kanye NSC operating from completion in September 2021 of the Masama 100km pipeline.
Mmolawa, however, still insists that Masama can pump up to than 64ML/day as expected. “The100km Masama-Mmamashia pipeline is currently pumping as per demand downstream,” she says.
According to her, the stated villages are benefitting from the Mmamashia-Gamonyane NSC connection. She says the water pumped to this corridor is a blend of treated water from NSC (Dikgatlhong and Letsibogo) and groundwater from the Masama wellfield. The Business Weekly & Review knows that there is a connection from the Molepolole/Malwelwe Wellfield supply to Thamaga which was to be decommissioned once Malwelwe starts operating to save water for Molepolole. Thamaga was to get water from Masama. But this is not happening and only when more flows are pumped from Masama can this be achieved and Kanye’s 17ML/day deficit be augmented.
Asked why this is not happening, Mmolawa says Thamaga is currently supplied from NSC and that the old Molepolole connection still remains available for use when required. The Business Weekly & Review knows that Thamaga was to be weaned off Molepolole supply after Masama/Kanye NSC (or Masama) is completed. Weaning Thamaga supply from Molepolole would increase supply in Molepolole from Malwelwe fields and Thamaga being supplied from Masama/NSC. “Thamaga was weaned from Molepolole water sources but the line remains alive and on standby,” Mmolawa says, adding that the pipeline is not experiencing any operational challenges and is operating as designed in response to downstream demands.
According to Mmolawa, the DLP lapses at the end of September 2022. She states that when that happens, the pipeline will be fully handed over to the Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) for operation and maintenance. “There is no pipeline failure that has been experienced since the commissioning of the line as the Masama-Mmamashia 100km pipeline is fully operational since commissioning,” she says. “As a matter of fact, since the advent of the pipeline, the Greater Gaborone area no longer experiences a deficit. Instead there in a significant surplus.”
The Business Weekly & Review also contacted Mongezi Mnyani, the CEO of Khato Civils, about why the pipeline is being pumped below capacity. “Khato Civils was contracted to build the pipeline and we did that, and upon completion we handed it over to Water Utilities Corporation and they are responsible for operating the system according to their own standards, procedures and processes,” Mnyani said. “We are informed that they have responded to your questions as they are the owners of the asset. As per our contractual obligation with WUC, we are having a full time team on site to attend to any defects and so far there has been nothing that requires our intervention.”