Minister of Minerals Energy and Water Resources (MEWR) Kitso Mokaila together with his management team were in Morupule B Power Plant on the eve of 2014.
Their visit was to see the transition from Chinese National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) hand over the operations and maintenance of the plant to the newly appointed German company STEAG.
Heavy presence of the military, police and plain clothes security agents were also there to see to it that the Chinese hand over to the Germans without any hitch.
Speaking on condition of anonymity a Chinese engineer at the plant confirmed heavy presence of security agents.
“The whole thing was too scary. Minister with BPC bosses were here with a heavy escort of security agents.
They thought we will shut the whole plant down. It’s like the government doesn’t trust us at all,” he said.
Adding that, CNEEC is a state owned company that will never do anything to sabotage Botswana.
He also said officials from BPC and MEWR have threatened to deport them should they gave their story to the media.
“We were scared, we can’t talk to the media openly. Otherwise I will be on the next flight to Beijing.
These people mean serious business, I don’t want to mess with them,” he said.
He further revealed that government was negotiating with CNEEC in bad faith for the operations and maintenance of the plant.
“We were only told that STEAG will be taking over from us on the 18th December 2013.
BPC did not give us enough time to wind up or to inform our staff that they will be losing their jobs,” he said.
CNEEC has lost at least 30 key Batswana employees because of the transition.
CNEEC also said the initial contract they have with BPC is of Engineering and Plant Construction (EPC) not operations and Maintenance.
It was out of goodwill from CNEEC that Botswana continued to have power. CNEEC insiders say BPC knew that supplying power to the national grid was not on their contract.
When negotiations started on operations and maintenance of the Plant, government wanted to arm twist CNEEC into signing a contract that does not have a payment bond.
When CNEEC demanded that there should be a payment bond from government, officials from both MWER and BPC demanded performance guarantee.
“There is now way we could have not wanted to operate and maintain the plant without payment bond.
We didn’t even touch the issue of the cost,” he noted.
CNEEC also said some of their equipment has been taken to some laboratories in South Africa to ascertain if they are genuine.
Whilst the equipment is still in South Africa, the company is operating at a loss.
“It is like spending money on the equipment and using it. That is a waste. BPC is beginning to doubt us,” he said.
BPC spokesperson Oarabile Setlhabi did not want to be drawn into discussing anything regarding CNEEC and STEAG.
He could only say, “What I know is that as BPC we have engineers who are ready to manage the plant.
It is just a matter of time then everything will be run by BPC.
STEAG is new contractor for operations and maintenance of the plant for now.
I can’t disclose the amount it is highly sensitive,” he said.
MEWR Principal Public Relations Officer Potso Thari claimed ignorance of security at Morupule B Power plant.
“It is a fact we were at the plant on New Year’s Eve with the minister and other senior officials.
As for security I only know that there is a security company responsible for guarding the plant,” she said.
She also declined to disclose the amount the government will pay STEAG.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Boikobo Paya said the issue is sensitive and therefore he will respond to a questioner sent to him.
He is still to respond to our questions.