Minister Thapelo Olopeng's asertion that government will construct 10 stadiums around the country without conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is not only reckless but downright dangerous.
Olopeng was answering a supplementary question from Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Mephato Reatile who had asked whether an EIA has been done for the Isaac Makwala stadium, which is one of the 10 stadiums that will be built around the country.
In his response the former Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development minister said; “For these facilities we do not need EIA. We have already consulted with the relevant ministry. So we are going to do the management plan as opposed to the EIA.”
The government position does not only raise eyebrows, but evokes memories of Serowe Integrated Sports Facility which has developed cracks because of its peculiar soil properties. Commentators say the facility was a political decision and some influential people pressurised for the quick construction on the current area without following proper procedure in order to appease Bangwato. Built at a cost of P27 million the facility developed cracks immediately after its completion, which led to many blaming the contractor whilst others blamed the politicians for insisting that the facility be built and completed as quickly as possible.
Years back, the then Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, Shaw Kgathi when answering a question in Parliament cleared the company that was involved in the construction of the stadium from any wrong doing, saying that the stadium’s disintegration before it was even used was a result of the peculiar soil properties. Kgathi put the blame squarely “on communication breakdown between officers involved in the planning and the implementation phase of the project.”
He was answering a question from former MP for Chobe the late Gibson Nshimwe, adding that government has not taken any steps to recover its money as no one was found to be in the wrong because government could not find evidence of deliberate negligence or lack of due diligence on anyone’s part. Ironically Kgathi said before the construction of the stadium site investigations were carried out by the Consulting and Structural Engineers (Newton McDonald and Associates (Pty) Ltd and at least three independent expert opinions were obtained.
He said investigations resulted in two geotechnical reports dated January 1998 and February 1999. On 5th March 1999, Newton McDonald and Associates submitted their recommendations regarding the foundations designs based on geotechnical reports.
The civil/structural consultants also finalised their designs based on the input from the geotechnical reports and advised the contractor with regard to implementation of the project on site. The project commenced in 1999 and was handed over in September 2001.
Reports show that in 2005, the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research was engaged and produced a technical audit report which revealed that the problems that manifested themselves on site were largely attributable to poor soil conditions, weather conditions (prior to and during construction), possible shortcomings in the sharing of information between professional disciplines in the department and between these disciplines and their consultants among others.
Kgathi further said that in 2007 a joint inspection survey of Serowe stadium was carried out to ascertain the extent of existing defects and arrive at an estimated cost of making good these defects. The inspection put the cost refurbishment at P17 029 154.45 with an annual maintenance estimate of 25 percent of that figure. The inspection concluded that while remedial work could be carried out there will always be need to attend to new defects annually depending on weather conditions in the area.