[Mmegi] The Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) has lost close to half a million from stolen solar panels used in the Nteletsa project.
Replacement of the panels coupled with the changeover from this system to the fixed wireless terminals (FWT) system means that the corporation will continue to lose more money.
Speaking to Mmegi in an interview Golekanye Molapisi, communications manager for BTC, said in the period beginning April 2010 to date, the parastatal lost close to P411,000 worth of solar panels stolen countrywide. He said the losses are more than this if they include replacement costs, labour as well as revenue lost due to loss of telephone use. He could however not provide figures towards these additional costs.
BTC, in partnership with the government, first implemented the Nteletsa programme - aimed at rural and underserved communities with access to telecommunications services, in 1999 with the Nteletsa 1 project. Phone sets used in the project were powered by solar panels because most of the villages in the project were not electrified. However, this proved to be a nightmare, as Molapisi said, the panels were "stolen at an alarming rate."
BTC was spending millions of Pula replacing the panels, but for every three panels replaced, two were stolen as soon as they were replaced," he said. He said this left many villages without telecommunications services, defeating the purpose of the Nteletsa project. Molapisi said the corporation has now embarked on a project to replace the phones with the new FWT technology, in which all old lines from the old system will be changed to the new one. This new system, which he described as a lasting solution, is possible because most villages are now electrified. Meanwhile, some of the villages provided with service in the Nteletsa 1 programme have been suffering from malfunctioning and non-functioning phones, including in government service providers. Lentsweletau, in the Kweneng district, is one of the villages experiencing these problems. Phone checks by Mmegi revealed that some of the affected offices in the village include the Post Office, the sub-land board, the clinic, the social services offices as well as the two primary schools in the village. Some of the offices have resorted to using cell phones as their official primary contact with the public.
However, Kgosi Lawrence Motswakhumo of Lentsweletau told Mmegi in an interview that complaints in the village about phones not working were more common last year, and that recently if such problems arise they usually last "one or two days."
Molapisi explained that in Lentsweletau 50 percent of the customers have already been changed over, and the changeover to the new system is expected to be completed by end of this month.
BTC loses half million in stolen solar panels