Work begins on condemned transmitter sites
THE Government has started working on three sub-standard transmitter sites in Midlands and Matabeleland North provinces.
Consulting engineers hired by the Government recently condemned the transmitter sites in Zvishavane, Insiza and Tsholotsho for substandard workmanship.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, Mr George Charamba yesterday visited the Insiza and Tsholotsho transmitter sites.
“Insiza and Tsholotsho sites share this very bad attribute. Both have been condemned and my heart bleeds for Insiza because that’s the first site I visited in Matabeleland South. The worst thing that you want to happen to you is to visit a condemned site. They have honeycombs. These happen when the concrete is not compacted well to a point where you leave some air pockets.
“It then creates some gaps that leave the rods which reinforce the structure exposed to the elements, which means they will start rusting and when they rust it means the lifespan of the structure is reduced. In fact when it’s expected to live for 50 years it will survive just half the number. It’s a failure in construction,” said Mr Charamba.
He said in Zvishavane they have finished demolishing the structure and have started the foundations afresh.
“It’s the first instance where a site has been demolished and built anew, so I want to be satisfied that it can be done. If I’m not satisfied it means we’ll not accept demolitions but simply move from the condemned site to a new one.
“I went there deliberataley because I wanted to see with my own eyes what the engineers were talking about and also to dramatise the fact that the ministry expects nothing short of standards,” he said.
He added that the Government brought on board consulting engineers whose role is to follow through on all the sites to test the standards in building of the foundations.
“When they visited the sites they ran into the honeycombs and they had been patched. I’m really grateful to the engineers because when they saw patches they became suspicious. They knocked the patches and the rods were exposed. All the four foundation legs at Insiza have been condemned. That means they have to be demolished and the work has to start afresh. I really would have wanted to make a difference in Tsholotsho through the project. It’s a combination of honeycombed structure as well as bolts whose protrusions exceed the required standard. And because of bolts it means the four foundation structures also have to be demolished.”
Mr Charamba allayed fears that the demolitions and the new work would result in the Government paying more.
“It’s not costing us any money but we’ve lost time. We contracted a Chinese company to do the work and we’ve what we call acceptance tests, which means a structure only becomes our concern provided it has met the set standards through an acceptance test.
“Before it does it still belongs to the contractor and when we condemn a structure it means the contractor must re-do the work and invite us when they’ve our requirements. Only then do we accept it and pay,” said Mr Charamba.
He said he was happy that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development had announced that it had availed some money towards the digitalisation project.
“What assuaged my anger is the fact that only two weeks ago we got a lovely letter from the Minister of Finance indicating he was releasing some money towards the project, which was virtually grinding to a standstill on account of non-payment. For us it’s good news that some money has come our way. By the time I get back to Harare I’m sure we’ll know the figures.
“We were lagging behind to the tune of about $21 million and anything that will go towards reducing that level of obligation is very much welcome. We had got to a stage where Huawei was no longer releasing equipment. We don’t want that to happen. Huawei trusts us and I don’t think it’s in our interest to undermine that trust,” said Mr Charamba.
He said once the country has places that are compliant to digitalisation and set top boxes, they will be switched on, meaning that the switching on programmes will be staggered. — @pamelashumba1