BDP MPs suspect opposition hand in train fiasco
Minister of Transport and Communications, Tshenolo Mabeo and Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Francistown East, Buti Billy have laid the blame for BR Express false start on opposition parties’ Parliamentarians.
Billy said that the,“BR Express malfunction might be a result of a political sabotage as some opposition Parliamentarians are celebrating the misfortune as it is a gain to their side and it is important for the Minister to observe that.”
Even when opposition MP’s leapt in consternation for Billy to withdraw his remarks, the Francistowner would not budge and continued that, “I think they are also happy that with my clever eye I managed to realise that they are happy.”
Billy also said that, “I do not think the train security is enough and if an individual inputs water instead of diesel how would we know that it is water?” he probed. He also said that the malfunction warrants a proper investigation into what actually transpired.
Minister Mabeo also said that the fact that Gaborone Central MP Dr Phenyo Butale as well as Opposition Chief Whip Wynter Mmolotsi made allegations to the effect that the BR Express is second hand was suspect and said Facebook accounts that have been propagating such news might actually be theirs.
“I am suspicious because the utterances that you have just made to the effect that BR Express is not new are being propagated on Facebook so it might actually be your accounts,” Mabeo jabbed.
Mabeo also said that he has witnessed the train in the manufacturing process and contrary to floating opinion BR Express is in point of fact a first-hand train.
The minister said BR Express went haywire between Mahalapye and Palapye after the power van engines which supply power for the air conditioners, lights and rest rooms shut down.
He said that investigations would later uncover that diesel in the power car was contaminated with water and the cause is still being investigated.
Mabeo continued that the fuel was drained from the fuel tanks in Francistown and Gaborone and when the problem persisted the train was grounded, resulting in the cancellation of the northbound voyage.
He said that Botswana Railways then bused people who had already bought tickets to their destinations and reimbursed a further 146 passengers.
He continued that Botswana Railways has continued to send coaches to Mafikeng every day since the 25th of March where Transnet has a workshop and that both train sets are still at a commissioning stage and have not yet been issued with a final acceptance certificate.
Nata/Gweta MP Polson Majaga also cast his doubts on the security of the train saying that the stops that it makes in the many stations leaves it vulnerable to saboteurs in the traditional transport sector.
The procurement of BR Express coaches has been ceaselessly marred by allegations of corruption and it has been revealed that Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have investigated BR and some top executives have had their gadgets confiscated while they spent a night in jail.
“This serves to confirm that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) is currently conducting investigations on Botswana Railways. The investigations have been ongoing for more than a week now,” Botswana Railways CEO Dominic Ntwaagae wrote in a memo to his staff in the first week of March.
He continued: “We wish to inform staff that as an organisation, being owned by government, it is expected and appreciated that from time to time government agencies mandated to carry out such exercises may visit us to ensure that processes and procedures are dully followed,” Ntwaagae further expressed in his ‘call for calm’ memo to staff.
He further indicated that his organisation should be held to account in all its dealings vowing to be supportive to “the ongoing investigations, to clear all allegations of corruption against the organisation”.
BR Express was launched amid pomp and fanfare on the 22nd of March and the malfunctioning episode has become a source of embarrassment to the ruling BDP government as it appears to confirm a trend of failed state mega-projects.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”