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Zimbabwe Beitbridge border post project a flagship PPP

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa officially opened the border post in Zimbabwe in late August

Raubex emphasises the success of the project as a collaborative effort

A new oxidation dam was constructed alongside the current dams in the town, as well as a new 11.4 mℓ reservoir

The purpose of the project was to decrease congestion experienced at the border post for people travelling and moving goods in and out of South Africa

6th September 2023

By: Cameron Mackay

Creamer Media Senior Online Writer

     

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South African infrastructure development and construction materials supply group Raubex CEO Felicia Msiza enthuses that the project Raubex completed for the Zimbabwean government’s road authority Zimborders at the Beitbridge border post last year is a testament to Raubex’s 49 years of experience.

She hopes this project will be the first of many public-private partnerships (PPPs) for the company, as the experience gained on this project will position the company well to contribute to PPPs in the South African market going forward.

She also emphasises the importance of the meticulous planning and stakeholder engagement that was required to complete the $172-million contract.

The overall scope of the project was to build a modern border post that facilitates trade, tourism and enhances the traveller’s border crossing experience through the “gateway of Africa”.

In addition to construction of the facilities, Raubex has also been awarded a 17-year maintenance contract for upkeep of the facilities at the border post.

“Our commitment to excellence is evident in the timely completion of this project without incurring penalties from delays. The meticulous planning, design and collaboration with our client and consultants ensured that every phase was executed precisely.

“Our interactions with the banks, attorneys and stakeholders were marked by transparency and mutual respect, ensuring a smooth administrative process leading up to the commencement of construction,” Msiza tells Engineering News.

Raubex chairperson Rudolf Fourie enthuses that the success of the project was the result of collaboration among many partners.

The design team that contributed to the project also included architects, civil and structural engineers, mechanical engineers, quantity surveyors, electrical engineers, information technology consultants, fire consultants and landscapers.

A consortium of lenders that funded the project included South Africa’s five large banks – FirstRand, Standard Bank, Absa, Nedbank and Investec – led by Nedbank as the facilities agent.

Further, five of Raubex’s subsidiaries were involved to “work seamlessly as one cohesive unit. This unity showcased the strength of our group and the potential we hold when we collaborate.”

These subsidiaries included Raubex Construction, Raubex Building, EMPA Structures, OMV and B&E International.

In addition to improving synergy, Fourie highlights that this collaboration also helped Raubex save money and time in procuring materials from other suppliers.

He added that part of the social and community benefits of the programme included that 40% of the materials and labour used were sourced locally in Zimbabwe.

TIMELINE
Fourie notes that the tender for the project was advertised in 2016 – before entering a two-year delay owing to political changes following the death of former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe – with the concession agreement eventually signed in June 2018.

The purpose of the project was to decrease congestion experienced at the border post for people travelling and moving goods in and out of South Africa.

Fourie emphasises the importance of the border post, as the main corridor for goods being bought into Africa is through Zimbabwe, making the border post a vital economic asset.

In October 2019, the project scope was finalised and defined, contractors and funders were bought on board and the agreements with the Zimbabwe government were signed.

Raubex began with pre-works in October 2019 and also assisted with mitigating queues and delegating traffic owing to the border post remaining operational, as the technical due diligence process began in October 2020.

The $172-million contract was then officially awarded to Raubex in November 2020.

CONSTRUCTION SCOPE AND CHALLENGES
For the main works for the border post, Raubex contributed to separating traffic into three separate traffic streams for freight, buses and light vehicles and pedestrians. Previously there were two traffic streams facilitated in one building, which Fourie says resulted in long queues.

Each traffic stream has its own immigration terminal and supporting infrastructure based on the classification of the traffic, as the number of staff was increased to facilitate these streams.

This comes in addition to non-port works that were intended to have a positive social impact on the surrounding community.

A new oxidation dam was built alongside the current dams in the town, as well as a new 11.4 Mℓ reservoir. Feeder and gravity water lines to the reservoir from the town infrastructure were also built.

Non-port works also included the construction of a new staff village with 220 units, an animal quarantine building and a new fire station.

Fourie also points out that other socially beneficial aspects of the project include the fact that environmental management plans were conducted in all areas.

Social and heritage studies were conducted at all the sites, infrastructure was moved to preserve the environment and re-designed to minimise impact, the disturbance footprint on the border post was not increased to minimise environmental impact, and all designs were aimed at reducing electricity demand with natural light and airflow.

Sustainable building materials took preference and the project partners put the focus on local empowerment, with all general workers and most skilled workers from Zimbabwe contributing to the project, and the core of the maintenance team is comprised of Zimbabwean women.

Raubex construction manager Herkie Sanderbergh notes that one of the main challenges of the project was that the border post had to remain operational during construction, which required a three-phase approach.

Phase 1 was completed in September 2021, Phase 2 in May 2022 and Phase 3 in November last year. All phases were completed on time.

The staff village – which houses workers from the border post – was completed in February this year.

In addition to working while the border post was operational, Sanderbergh points out that Raubex had to deal with several other challenges.

These included material availability, finding an appropriate balance and coordination between design and construction of the project, skills availability and capability of subcontractors and local labour, as well as stakeholder requirements, perceptions and engagement.

Other challenges included project scheduling and execution based on “tight project deadlines”, particularly as a lot of construction work occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic; scope creep; and harsh environmental conditions owing to high heat levels in the area.

“One of the key successes is the fact that our people had the ability to manage all these stakeholders in getting the best out of the construction, design and then also the technical teams.

“In terms of orchestrating and managing this, we were in the middle and were talking to the client, the government leaders, our construction teams and those in the professional design team.

“The value of a PPP shows that we can do a lot more in South Africa through these, and if South Africa can learn from this, there's a lot of challenges that we can resolve,” Fourie asserts.

*Cameron Mackay was a guest of Raubex on a site visit to the Beitbridge border post in Zimbabwe.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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