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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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BDP decides Balopi’s fate

22nd November 2021
Balopi

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Central Committee (CC) meeting, chaired by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi late last month, resolved that the party’s next Secretary-General (SG) should be a full-time employee based at Tsholetsa House and not active in politics.

The resolution by the CC, which Masisi proposed, is viewed as a ploy to deflate the incumbent, Mpho Balopi’s political ambitions and send him into political obscurity. The two have not been on good terms since the 2019 elections, and the fallout has been widening despite attempts to reconcile them. In essence, the BDP says that Balopi, who is currently a Member of Parliament, Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, and a businessman, is overwhelmed by the role.

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BDF-Namibians shootings autopsy report revealed

22nd November 2021
BDF

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF)-Namibians fatal shooting tragedy Inquest has revealed through autopsy report that the BDF carried over 800 bullets for the mission, 32 of which were discharged towards the targets, and 19 of which hit the targets.

This would mean that 13 bullets missed the targets-in what would be a 60 percent precision rate for the BDF operation target shooting. The Autopsy report shows that Martin Nchindo was shot with five (4) bullets, Ernst Nchindo five (5) bullets, Tommy Nchindo five (5) bullets and Sinvula Munyeme five (5) bullets. From the seven (7) BDF soldiers that left the BDF camp in two boats, four (4) fired the shots that killed the Namibians.

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Gov’t confused over Moitoi’s UN job application

22nd November 2021
VENSON MOITOI

The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s decision to apply for the positions of United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and their deputies (DSRSG), has left the government confused over whether to lend her support or not, WeekendPost has established.

Moitoi’s application follows the Secretary-General’s launch of the third edition of the Global Call for Heads and Deputy Heads of United Nations Field Missions, which aims to expand the pool of candidates for the positions of SRSG) and their deputies to advance gender parity and geographical diversity at the most senior leadership level in the field. These mission leadership positions are graded at the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General levels.

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