Fight over the P20 million Tshele Oil railway line

Bame Piet
Tshele Oil Railway Line

KCP says it followed client’s order

The long running legal tussle between Kwena Concrete Products and Unik Construction slowly moved towards the finishing line last week after the latter called an expert witness to testify on the deal that went wrong between the two companies.

The two companies are fighting over a payment of P20million for the supply and delivery of 11,000 railway sleepers for the railway line to Tshele Oil facilities, which was built almost seven years ago.

The dispute which started off in 2017 also involves Bergstan Consulting Engineers, and Botswana Railways, who were the clients for the project.

According to evidence led in court, Botswana Railways engaged Bergstan Consulting Engineers as their project managers for supervision and general management of the project from 2016.

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The correspondence between the four parties show that the consulting engineers approved measurements, design, weight and strength to Unik Construction, which then gave Kwena Concrete Products the green light for mass production of the blocks early 2017.

Prior to the approval, the parties had visited Kwena Concrete Products factory in Gaborone and approved the mould and the prototype of the sleepers, which they confirmed were to their satisfaction.

However, a few weeks after the project begun, Unik Construction say they noticed that the design of the sleepers did not meet their expectations and stopped the project to conduct their own tests on the blocks.

As the dispute gained momentum, Unik Construction declined to pay KCP and placed an order of sleepers with a South African based company who immediately delivered to the site to meet the project deadline.

Unik Construction is countersuing and demanding approximately P20 million from KCP as compensation for the losses.

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Hemme Breedt, a civil engineer specializing in railway construction who was engaged to conduct the tests in 2017, returned as an expert witness last week, saying that the sleepers did not meet the requirements for a railway line.

The Cape Town based engineer said the wiring of the sleepers was problematic hence they did not have the strength to handle heavy loads travelling at high speed, among others.

According to Breedt, the rejected sleepers were not compliant with South Africa’s Spoornet/Transnet standards and requirements that are used across the SADC region.

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Meanwhile it emerged that the tests were conducted at the time when the dispute was already registered before the court.

The witness concurred that the record shows that the consulting engineer and the contractor approved the design, calculations, and other specifications of the sleepers, and gave the manufacturer the green light to embark on mass production of the sleepers.

Under intense cross examination, Breedt concurred that Unik Construction and the consulting engineers did not fully communicate their displeasure on the condition of the sleepers with Kwena Concrete Products, nor did any of them advise the company to halt mass production and delivery of the blocks upon noticing the defects.

Furthermore, he said he was not fully informed of the correspondence between the parties, since he was only brought in to conduct the tests on a sample of sleepers when the project had already commenced.

The case resumes in November.

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