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.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.