The Chinese call the shots at Morupule B

  • Morupule project was over P11 billion
  • Almost all subcontractors are Chinese
  • Chinese employees outnumber Batswana
  • BPC says citizen employment will peak in 2023


Despite heavily benefitting from the P11 billion pula Morupule B project, a preponderance of Chinese sub-contractors and employees there points to a de facto reservation policy that is partial to the Chinese.

According to Botswana Power Corporation’s (BPC) General Manager responsible for Generation, Zwelithini Witbooi, there are only 113 Batswana employees at Morupule B while Chinese expatriates total 135 as at June 2019.

A rather novel – if not outright strange – explication is being proffered for this anomalous state of affairs. According to Witbooi, the primary reason for having more Chinese workers than Batswana is that Botswana’s sole power utility does not want to give the contractor, which is CNEEC, any room to blame BPC for any faults and defects that may arise at the plant.

CNEEC is currently carrying out remedial works at Morupule B, which are expected to be completed in 2023. CNEEC is responsible for all costs of the remedial works because it was held liable for earlier faults and defects that rendered the costly project dysfunctional, thanks to wrong designs, equipment and quality assurance procedures. Witbooi says should BPC motivate for employment of Batswana, CNEEC could blame any defects that may afterwards arise on the native component of its employees.

“So we allowed them to have their choice of employees so as to have no excuse for non-perfomance,” he explains, adding that the CNEEC designs and plant information are the intellectual property of the Chinese contractor. “We are not talking about your usual manual labourers here,” he emphasises. “These are skilled personnel with deep technical engineering expertise.”
According to Witbooi, CNEEC also needed the right skills, which may not necessarily be available in Botswana. Yet Witbooi says citizen employment on the project is expected to reach a peak of 450 in the third year (2022) and the remedial works completed in 2023.

Here is the picture that, although odd, is in accordance with the stance at BPC. It is a scheme that ensures that while the Chinese contactor bears the costs of the remedial works, the bulk of the money goes to Chinese sub-contractors and Chinese nationals, thus alleviating the pain of the punishment.

CNEEC-SBW Consortium-EPC Contractor is the main contractor. The company was awarded the initial Morupule B project worth over P11 billion. The costs of the remedial works, estimated somewhere at P1.2 billion, will be borne by CNEEC. Anhui No.2, which is a Chinese electric construction firm, is the sub-contractor for construction. Another Chinese firm, Shanghai Power Supervision and Consultancy Co. Ltd., is the sub-contractor for supervision of testing of refractory during manufacturing. Global Energy Interconnection Research Institute Co. Ltd., which is a subsidiary of State Grid Corporation of China, is the sub-contractor for supervision of refractory during installation. Another Chinese company,Wuxi City Yigang Refractories Co. Ltd is also a sub-contractor for refractory .

Edwaleni Holdings (Pty) Ltd, the only Botswana-owned company, is the sub-contractor for scaffolding. NDT Services Africa has been sub-contracted for Non-Destructive Testing. Other sub-contractors are yet to come to site.