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BR in another train derailment incident

Botswana Railways

Three wagons described as empty takers belonging to Botswana Railways derailed this week in Lobatse on their way to the workshop in Mahalapye.

 The incident which was confirmed by Botswana Railways Public Relations Officer Sakaeyo Baitshepi happened on Wednesday morning around 0400 HRS but no one was injured.

Botswana Railways Safety Manager Lawrence Mosweunyane told WeekendPost that investigations are still ongoing but they suspect the derailment was caused by railway line check and trap point’s failure, which might have guided the wagons to a wrong track.

“We cannot categorically confirm that now since the investigations are still ongoing. At the moment we can only give assumptions, even the costs we can only speculate,” said Mosweunyane.

He said the incident happed just before Lobatse Clayworks at the crossroads but the train only managed to stop after 3.8 kilometers since they were not aware of what was happening. According to Mosweunyane the train was pulling 39 wagons from Lobatse to Mahalapye and the three that derailed were in the middle.

He also confirmed that no injuries were sustained since there only two people, the Engine man and the Train man were on board. The BR Safety Manager also told this publication that at the moment train movements between Lobatse and Gaborone are still halted.

At the time of going to press, the spokesperson said the engineers were at site awaiting the crane and the recovery process has started assuring that they might finish before end of business on Friday where train movements will resume. The accident follows another unfortunate incident that happed late last year where two people lost their lives.

On 10th December 2019, the nation was awoken by bad news that Botswana Railways passenger train enroute to Francistown from Gaborone was derailed near Bonwapitse River and claimed two crew members. 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 a good conditions.

Early this year WeekendPost reported that the preliminary findings in the Botswana Railways public inquiry into the accident involving the passenger train points 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 months long public inquiry that was conducted across the country since January 2020.

Even though most of the train personnel interviewed by the inquiry attributed a gross negligence in the part of BR, the Inquiry Chairman pointed that a malfunction on the train communication system could have led to the derailment of train 0501/BD549 between Pallaroad and Mahalapye on December 10, 2019 in which two BR crew members lost their lives.

Moakofi later told WeekendPost that one of the leading cause of the accident was the communication system which they cannot even retrieve any messages or communication 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.

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021
Kebonang

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.

JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.

This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.

“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.

This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.

“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.

UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.

In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.

This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.

Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”

Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”

UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.

Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.

“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview
UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.

The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.

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Boko-Khama axis viewed with suspicion

25th January 2021
boko-and-khama

President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.

While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.

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