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BR inquiry reveal ‘communication blackout’

The preliminary findings in the just ended Botswana Railways public inquiry into the accident involving the passenger train points to irregularities in the train’s radio communication system which was found to be ‘absolute’.

This was revealed by Botswana Railways Inquiry Chairman Olefile Moakofi (Chief Executive Officer of Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana) on Tuesday this week, marking the end of the two month long public inquiry that was conducted across the country since January 2020.
Even though most of the train personnel interviewed by the inquiry subjected a gross negligence on the part of BR, the Inquiry Chairman on Tuesday pointed that a malfunction on the train communication system could have led to the derailment of train 0501/BD549 between Palla Road and Mahalapye on December 10, 2019 in which two BR crew members lost their lives.

The train derailed at around 2am December 9, near Palla Road. Heavy waters following heavy downpours in the area were fingered as the cause of the accident. The Ministry had set up an eight-man investigative board made of engineers and former BR employees to gather evidence. The inquiry came to an end on Tuesday evening and the team is now busy, working on the report. On Tuesday, Moakofi had told WeekendPost that so far one of the leading causes of the accident is the communication system which from which they cannot even retrieve any messages or communications leading to the fateful day.

Moakofi even though he did not want to pre-empt the report said some of their team members have travelled to South Africa to further the investigations.  The radio communication networks are critical to train operations including stringent requirements for reliability, availability, safety and security for these operations. Different security measures are considered based on the assumption of transmission error or communication blackout in RSTT. In general, radio communication for railway operations are considered as “mission critical” for train operations in general and the management of train emergency situations.

Furthermore, railway radio communication systems require the support of legacy technology and to have a long life cycle. RSTT provide improved railway traffic control, passenger safety and improved security for train operations. These systems also provide for interoperability of train operations in some regions. After the accident, Minister of transport and Communications Thulagano Segokgo promised that he is going to set up an independent investigation team to get to the bottom of what could have caused the accident.

According to reports the new Minister was later advised by attorneys for Botswana Railways, that according to the BR Act where there are casualties, the President should institute a Commission of Inquiry. On the fateful day, 10th December 2019, the nation was awoken by bad news that Botswana Railways passenger train en-route to Francistown from Gaborone, was derailed near Bonwapitse River.

The Francistown-bound train carrying around 400 passengers broke down damaging the locomotive, luggage van, generator van, buffet car and four coaches. After the much talked about incident, many questions were raised on why Botswana Railways allowed the movement of trains when they were floods in Mahalapye and knowing that the railway line was not in good conditions. Briefing Parliament about the accident Minister Segokgo revealed that it has come to his attention that the rail coaches were not ensured and that the railway line is very old.

“The railway line was constructed initially before independence and it has been confirmed to me verbally that indeed we do not have insurance on the trains and it is a very disturbing matter which I am addressing at my ministry,” he said. Following the interviews, employees took turns in the hot seat and claimed serious malfunctions within the BR Management. They asserted that the malfunctions coupled with decrepit systems have always presented a ticking time bomb within the organisation.

The December 10 accident, they said, was a result of a toxic environment at their headquarters.  They claimed that top management authorised movement of the train, despite their warnings of adverse weather conditions. At the time of going to press the Ministry of Transport and Communications did not respond to WeekendPost inquiry on the matter despite the Inquiry Chairman Moakofi having answered the questionnaire and forwarding to them as protocol dictates. The Ministry telephones rang unanswered the whole of Thursday while a message was relayed that the ministry’s spokesperson Oteng Mokowe was in Lobatse and will address to the WeekendPost inquiry.    

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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