The Botswana Railways (BR) is apparently struggling to find a suitable candidate to fill the vacant position of chief executive officer (CEO). The post becomes vacant at the end of this month when the incumbent CEO – Leonard Makwinja is expected to exit.
Makwinja’s contract was not renewed after President Mokgweetsi Masisi constituted a commission of enquiry to investigate circumstances that led to the derailment of Botswana Railways passenger train in December 2019, near Bonwapitse river resulting in two BR employees losing their lives.
The commission of inquiry has since completed the investigations and the bulky report has long been handed to the minister of transport and communications, Thulagano Segokgo, who is also expected to table the report before parliament sometime next year.
Now the technically bankrupt parastatal is head hunting a CEO both locally and internationally.
Reports reaching this publication suggest that BR was grossly embarrassed by the dismal performance of the four candidates who were short listed for the CEO position.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that a Zimbabwean national was among those who were short-listed.
BR board chairman Adolph Hirschfield last week confirmed that the railway company is currently struggling to find a suitable candidate to replace Makwinja.
”It is true that BR is currently struggling to find a suitable candidate who can lead the organisation,’’ he said adding that a few months ago BR floated an advert both locally and regionally for the position of CEO.
He said a good number of candidates responded positively when they saw the advert. Hirschfield also says during the process about four candidates were short listed and were called for the interview, three locals and one foreigner.
“Unfortunately, those four candidates who were short listed could not make it to our certificatory and at the moment we are now back to step one,” he says.
He added that the hunt for the suitable candidate has now intensified in which BR will soon have a new CEO before the first quota of 2021.
”As you might be aware the current CEO is on his way out as his contract expires end of this month December 2020,” he stated.
Among other things he said BR had planned that it would announce the new CEO before the end of the year, unfortunately that will not happen but an acting CEO will be announced shortly.
“I am optimistic that we will find the right candidate who will then take BR to higher heights,” says Hirschfield. He revealed that the most challenging factor that BR has identified in its search for a suitable candidate is the fact that BR head offices are not in the capital city, rather at Mahalapye.
“This is not an easy task therefore the matter will be discussed holistically when the right time comes,” he stated.
However, Gaebepe Molaodi, chair of Botswana Railways Amalgamated Workers Union (BRWU) allegedly indicated that the union has been reliably informed that the interviews were surrounded by controversy and there needs to be investigations to ascertain if the allegations are true.
“At the moment I cannot disclose to the media what we were reliably informed until those allegations are tested,” says Molaodi. She indicated that one of the BR employees was short listed and called for the interview and the union rallied behind that particular candidate as he knows BR in and out.
Adding that there are capable people within BR who can turn around the rail agency.
“We will be very much disappointed if the board appoints a foreigner because there are capable people within the organisation who can lead BR, therefore there is no need to recruit a non-citizen,” she indicated.