Masisi, Geingob deal questioned in Botswana

11 March 2021 | International

BAKANG TIRO

GABORONE

‘Community not consulted’A Botswana MP has labelled a proposed joint desalination project with Namibia as suspicious.

The member of parliament for Botswana’s Okavango region, Kenny Kapinga, has berated President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his administration regarding the suspicious joint proposed desalination project with Namibia.

Kapinga said in a recent interview that he was surprised that the Botswana government was not engaging people of Okavango over the project, which will affect his constituency one way or the other, despite Masisi meeting President Hage Geingob in closed meetings.

Over a week ago, Masisi travelled to Namibia to meet his counterpart over the multibillion-pula project to pump desalinated water from Atlantic Ocean through a pipeline that will stretch to Botswana.

Important

After the Namibia trip, on which he was accompanied by minister of land management, water and sanitation services Kefentse Mzwinila, Masisi said the project was very important for Botswana.

“I came here at [President Hage Geingob’s] invitation to explore the possibility of partnering in water project. They have started talks with an investor who is offering to desalinate water from Atlantic Ocean and supply the country,” said Masisi.

But Kapinga complained that the people of Okavango have never been consulted on the proposed project, warning that the secret that Masisi and Geingob are hiding from the public will backfire.

“I don’t know anything about that project which Masisi keeps going to Namibia to talk about. My constituency knows nothing and it seems like there would be impacts on communities that reside in Okavango. For now, it just a secret for Masisi and his government,” said worried Kapinga.

In addition, Kapinga said he had asked Mzwinila to brief parliament on the project on Thursday but he never did despite agreeing to do so.

“If the minister and his government don’t want to talk to me about the projects in my constituency as it a tradition then I won’t force him. When it comes to looting of the state coffers a deceitful government such as this one will never come out clear,” he said.

Mzwinila could not be reached to respond as he did not answer calls to his mobile phone. Press secretary to the president Batlhalefi Leagajang said there was nothing sinister in the Namibia water desalination project, adding that the project was not Masisi and Geingob’s personal deal.

“The two countries issued the statements confirming that President Masisi was invited to the presentation by his Namibian counterpart and Minister Kefentse Mzwinila confirmed that the desalination from the Atlantic Ocean is one of the possible solutions they are considering in order to address water shortage in Botswana,” said Leagajang.

Sardarov connection

The Namibian press reported that President Geingob has secretly met with Russian billionaire Rashid Sardarov, who has been identified as a prospective bidder in the lucrative water project.

Sardarov is the owner of a company called Comsar Properties SA, which was allowed to lease a four government-owned farms for 99 years in 2018, valued at N$43 million, and measuring a combined 17 000 ha as well.

The Namibian reported that the Russian business tycoon was hosted at State House recently to present his proposed investment in the intended N$3.5 billion project that Botswana will be party to. The project deal was mooted back in 2018 when former Botswana President Ian Khama visited Namibia.

- The Patriot on Sunday

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