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The Minister of Transport and Communications, Thulaganyo Segokgo, has confirmed that he has received a report of the inquiry into the Botswana Railways passenger train tragedy that left two employees dead and others seriously injured.
Following the Botswana Railways (BR) passenger train accident on 10 December 2019, a board of inquiry was established by President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
In an interview with The Botswana Gazette, Minister Segokgo said he had given the board up to March to deliver the report. “I can confirm that I have received the draft report from the Board of Inquiry,” said. “I am not in a position to divulge its contents as I still have to discuss it with the relevant authorities but I have read it together with the recommendations.”
Certain staff members of BR, including the CEO, the driver of the star-crossed train and passengers who were on board on the fateful night, were interviewed in the course of the probe. The board of inquiry board also held kgotla meetings in Mahalapye, Palla Road and Palapye and visited Lobatse, Gaborone and Francistown to gather evidence from members of the public.
“The report before the minister compiles a lot of day to day injustices, mismanagement and plain reckless conduct of BR management and also recommends far-reaching decisions which will leave some jobless,” said a member of the board who cannot be identified.
The anonymous board member added that an event recorder that is commonly known as the black box was useful for critical information for the probe.
During the inquiry, the nation heard sordid details of how dereliction of duty had become the culture of management at BR, risking the health and lives of staff and passengers alike. This included serving passengers water contaminated with faeces since 2017, as well as operating trains with expired fire extinguishers and without first aid boxes.
The inquiry also heard that Botswana Railways was a haven of unqualified and incompetent people. A BR senior traffic controller, Reginald Ditlogolo, told the inquiry that the accident that claimed two lives could have been avoided.
However, sections of BR management have also accused the transport ministry of having a hand in the mismanagement of the parastatal, saying some issues had long been reported to them but no remedial action was taken.
CEO Leonard Makwinja has called for well-equipped rescue stations throughout the country to deal with emergencies. “That is where we should get to as a country,” Makwinja said in response to a question during the inquiry. “The responsibility does not lie solely with BR.”