Bridges washed away, Bots clears contractors

>Bakang Mhalandi

GABORONE-THE Botswana government has swiftly moved to absolve contractors following public anger after several bridges were washed away following recent heavy rains which pounded the country.

Damage was particularly severe in the southern parts of the country where two bridges along the highway which leads to Namibia, collapsed under the weight of the incessant rains.

Elias Magosi, the Ministry of Transport and Communications’ permanent secretary, told journalists in Gaborone this week that in the case of the two collapsed bridges, the contractor had removed concrete erosion protection covers, just prior to the collapse as part of the road’s expansion works.

Engineers knowledgeable with the project said the removal of the covers had exposed the sand-based bridge support to floodwaters leading to the bridges’ collapse. Several vehicles were damaged in the collapse, sparking public anger and questions over the workmanship since the project is relatively new.

Magosi said the contractor could not be blamed as the removal was part of the works needed for the road expansion.

“As part of the adjudication process, the contractor was found to be technically and financially qualified to undertake this project,” Magosi said.

“The assessment of capability of the contractor was done together with the World Bank from which the government sourced a loan.

“Due to the heavy intensity of the rains and high floods on December 25 and January 7, a bridge on the A10 highway (Gaborone-Kanye road) in Moshupa collapsed.”

Magosi said road designs take into account climate changes, and that the roads have a 20-year lifespan, while culverts and bridges have a 25 – 50 years design life, respectively.

The Department of Meteorological Services had warned of heavy falls over the festive season, but the public argued this appeared to have been ignored, putting several lives in danger.

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