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Blue train in false start

The newly re-launched passenger train has disappointed on first day of operation. It failed to takeoff for its Francistown-Gaborone scheduled trip on Wednesday night because of mechanical and electrical faults. The BR engineers spent almost eight hours trying to fix a malfunctioning generator van, a story that comes amid allegations that the coaches are not new, and neither is the locomotive is best of conditions.

The train has returned and it will stop at six (6) strategic stations being Lobatse, Gaborone, Mahalapye, Palapye, Serule and Francistown. The newly branded passenger train was scheduled to leave Francistown at 9pm sharp on Wednesday night but patrons sat through a series of delays lasting up to an unbearable eight hours.

Scores of the re-introduced Botswana Railways (BR) Express passengers were left frustrated and angry after the highly anticipated mode of transport failed to take off as scheduled in Francistown on Wednesday night. This publication gathered that what is seen as a factory fault, the locomotive was mixing water with fuel and electrical signals were being transmitted throughout the train.

Since its stoppage in 2009, Batswana had been longing for the passenger train. And the reinstatement had been welcomed by Batswana with both hands – only to be disappointed at the very last minute.

As if they were clamoring to be in the Guinness World Book of Records, passenger train customers started buying tickets as early 8am on Wednesday in order for them to be the first to embark on the new train.

However, all their ambitions were shattered with the passenger train failing to take off as scheduled. And Wednesday night’s wintry weather in Francistown left the passengers disconcerted, angry and exasperated.

Dozens of passengers who wanted to be the first ones to board the new passenger were frustrated and ended up hiking to Gaborone during the night. And when the passenger train left Francistown for Gaborone at around 5am on Thursday, a lot of passengers had already left, sources said.

“I just need my money back. I wanted to be the first traveling with the re-launched passenger train but Botswana Railways have failed me dismally,” said an irate James, who could not reveal his second name.

Another passenger added: “After six or so years of no passenger train, my impression was that Botswana Railways will bring a service that surpasses what they used to offer us before. I am really disappointed. And I will never use the passenger anymore.”

With a single voice, scores of agitated passengers nearly caused a chaos at the Francistown station in order to get their refund. Passengers have vowed not to spread any good word about the Botswana Railways.

“First cut is always the deepest. And the expectation is that Botswana Railways should have done their homework before rather than selling us a dummy,” said Norman Nkageng of Gweta village.

Around midnight, the BR CEO Dominic Ntwaagae addressed the angry passengers and pleaded for restraint as they were still fighting for the restoration of the train service. He revealed that the coaches were experiencing a power failure and the engineers were still working on them.

Efforts to get a comment from the BR spokesperson Kebabonye Morwaagae on the exact number of passengers who finally made it to Gaborone with the new passenger train at around 5am on Thursday drew a blank.

Morwaagae was not picking up his phone until press. He could not live up to his promise he made through a text message: “Can I call you later!” he did not call back as he promised until press time.   

At the launch held in Lobatse this week, President Dr Lt Gen Ian Khama said Botswana Railways has procured thirty-seven (37) coaches to operate this Service between Lobatse and Francistown. He noted that the service will be operated as night trains on a daily basis.  “Day trains will be operated during public holidays in addition to the night service to cater for demand. The aim is therefore, to complement the road and air services to improve mobility and also to facilitate trade,” he said.

Khama said Botswana Railways as a commercial enterprise of the Government with the primary mandate to provide efficient and cost effective railway transportation of goods and passengers within the borders of Botswana started operating its passenger train service in 1991 until its stoppage in April 2009. It is almost nine (9) years since the Passenger Train Service was discontinued.

“Let me also take you a step back so as to understand the circumstances that led to discontinuing the passenger train service. The stoppage was attributed to the fact that the coaches were in an unacceptable condition and there was a high level of risk exposure for the Organisation, as well as to the passengers and no longer viable to continue. Therefore, it was logical to discontinue the Passenger Train Service at that time. However since then, year by year there has been an increase in traffic density on our roads resulting in traffic congestion,” he said.

Khama said in view of the above, the Government accepted recommendations from a study commissioned by Botswana Railways, through the Ministry of Transport and Communications, which showed high public demand for the train to be brought back, which is why we are all gathered here to mark the official launch of the re-instatement of the Botswana Railways passenger service.

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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African DFIs gear to combat climate change

25th November 2022

The impacts of climate change are increasing in frequency and intensity every year and this is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. African CEOs in the Global South are finally coming to the party on how to tackle the crisis.

Following the completion of COP27 in Egypt recently, CEOs of Africa DFIs converged in Botswana for the CEO Forum of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions. One of the key themes was on green financing and building partnerships for resource mobilization in financing SDGs in Africa

A report; “Weathering the storm; African Development Banks response to Covid-19” presented shocking findings during the seminar. Among them; African DFI’s have proven to be financially resilient, and they are fast shifting to a green transition and it’s financing.

COO, CEDA, James Moribame highlighted that; “Everyone needs food, shelter and all basic needs in general, but climate change is putting the achievement of this at bay. “It is expensive for businesses to do business, for instance; it is much challenging for the agricultural sector due to climate change, and the risks have gone up. If a famer plants crops, they should be ready for any potential natural disaster which will cost them their hard work.”

According to Moribame, Start-up businesses will forever require help if there is no change.

“There is no doubt that the Russia- Ukraine war disrupted supply chains. SMMEs have felt the most impact as some start-up businesses acquire their materials internationally, therefore as inflation peaks, this means the exchange rate rises which makes commodities expensive and challenging for SMMEs to progress. Basically, the cost of doing business has gone up. Governments are no longer able to support DFI’s.”

Moribame shared remedies to the situation, noting that; “What we need is leadership that will be able to address this. CEOs should ensure companies operate within a framework of responsible lending. They also ought to scout for opportunities that would be attractive to investors, this include investors who are willing to put money into green financing. Botswana is a prime spot for green financing due to the great opportunity that lies in solar projects. ”

Technology has been hailed as the economy of the future and thus needs to be embraced to drive operational efficiency both internally and externally.

Executive Director, bank of Industry Nigeria, Simon Aranou mentioned that for investors to pump money to climate financing in Africa, African states need to be in alignment with global standards.

“Do what meets world standards if you want money from international investors. Have a strong risk management system. Also be a good borrower, if you have a loan, honour the obligation of paying it back because this will ensure countries have a clean financial record which will then pave way for easier lending of money in the future. African states cannot just be demanding for mitigation from rich countries. Financing needs infrastructure to complement it, you cannot be seating on billions of dollars without the necessary support systems to make it work for you. Domestic resource mobilisation is key. Use public money to mobilise private money.” He said.

For his part, the Minster of Minister of Entrepreneurship, Karabo Gare enunciated that, over the past three years, governments across the world have had to readjust their priorities as the world dealt with the effects and impact of the COVID 19 pandemic both to human life and economic prosperity.

“The role of DFIs, during this tough period, which is to support governments through countercyclical measures, including funding of COVID-19 related development projects, has become more important than ever before. However, with the increasingly limited resources from governments, DFIs are now expected to mobilise resources to meet the fiscal gaps and continue to meet their developmental mandates across the various affected sectors of their economies.” Said Gare.

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TotalEnergies Botswana launches Road safety campaign in Letlhakeng

22nd November 2022

Letlhakeng:TotalEnergies Botswana today launched a Road Safety Campaign as part of their annual Stakeholder Relationship Management (SRM), in partnership with Unitrans, MVA Fund, TotalEnergies Letlhakeng Filling Station and the Letlhakeng Sub District Road Safety Committee during an event held in Letlhakeng under the theme, #IamTrafficToo.

The Supplier Relationship Management initiative is an undertaking by TotalEnergies through which TotalEnergie annually explores and implements social responsibility activities in communities within which we operate, by engaging key stakeholders who are aligned with the organization’s objectives. Speaking during the launch event, TotalEnergies’ Operations and HSSEQ,   Patrick Thedi said,  “We at TotalEnergies pride ourselves in being an industrial operator with a strategy centered on respect, listening, dialogue and stakeholder involvement, and a partner in the sustainable social and economic development of its host communities and countries. We are also very fortunate to have stakeholders who are in alignment with our organizational objectives. We assess relationships with our key stakeholders to understand their concerns and expectations as well as identify priority areas for improvement to strengthen the integration of Total Energies in the community. As our organization transitions from Total to Total Energies, we are committed to exploring sustainable initiatives that will be equally indicative of our growth and this Campaign is a step in the right direction. ”

As part of this campaign roll out, stakeholders  will be refurbishing and upgrading and installing road signs around schools in the area, and generally where required. One of the objectives of the Campaign is to bring awareness and training on how to manage and share the road/parking with bulk vehicles, as the number of bulk vehicles using the Letlhakeng road to bypass Trans Kalahari increases. When welcoming guests to Letlhakeng, Kgosi Balepi said he welcomed the initiative as it will reduce the number of road incidents in the area.

Also present was District Traffic Officer ASP, Reuben Moleele,  who gave a statistical overview of accidents in the region, as well as the rest of the country. Moleele applauded TotalEnergies and partners on the Campaign, especially ahead of the festive season, a time he pointed out is always one with high road statistics. The campaign name #IamTrafficToo, is a reminder to all road users, including pedestrians that they too need to be vigilant and play their part in ensuring a reduction in road incidents.

The official proceedings of the day included a handover of reflectors and stop/Go signs to the Letlhakeng Cluster from TotalEnerigies, injury prevention from tips from MVA’s Onkabetse Petlwana, as  well as  bulk vehicle safety tips delivered from Adolf Namate of Unitrans.

TotalEnergies, which is committed to having zero carbon emissions by 2050,  has committed to rolling out the Road safety Campaign to the rest of the country in the future.

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