Monday, September 28, 2020

Former BR CEO rejoins civil service as Project Coordinator in Namibia

The former Chief Executive Officer of the Botswana Railways, Dominic Ntwaagae, has returned to the civil service and will be stationed in Windhoek, Namibia.

Ntwaagae’s name was on the most recent list of appointments, promotions and transfers of senior civil servants that was issued by the Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Magosi. His name is 21st on a Roman-numeral list and the detail provided is no more than that “Mr. Dominic R. Ntwaagae has been appointed as Project Director stationed in Windhoek, Namibia.”

The project in question is the Trans-Kalahari Railway Line Project through which Botswana and Namibia plan to construct a new heavy haul, 1500-kilometre railway line stretching from the Mmamabula coalfields in Botswana to Walvis Bay port in Namibia. The railway will run parallel to the Trans-Kalahari Highway, which links the Port of Walvis Bay in Namibia to the South African cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg via Gaborone. The project is estimated to be worth over US$9.5 million and will be implemented through the Design, Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (DBOOT) investment model. In terms of the latter, a developer undertakes the financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance of the project.

It is expected that 65 million tonnes of coal from Mmamabula will be handled by the Namibia Ports Authority which intends to construct a bulk container terminal that will be used to store coal transported via the Trans Kalahari railway. Compared to the traditional routes, this railway line will cut the distance by 400 kilometers and provide linkages between the Americas and East European markets and the Southern African hinterland. It will also benefit other landlocked Southern African Development Community countries like Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe by providing alternative transportation routes.

Ntwaagae’s appointment is more than five years too late because the Trans-Kalahari Railway Project Management Office in Windhoek opened on 15 April 2015 after the two countries signed the Bilateral Work Agreement in March 2014. The Namibian representative, Robert Kalomho, established the office without the Botswana representative. The Office will now be jointly managed by two project coordinators, one from Namibia and the other (Ntwaagae) from Botswana.

Until his resignation in 2017, Ntwaagae was BR’s CEO and given the circumstances that led to his resignation, it is going to be unusually interesting how he works with some BR officers and board members who are still in post.

Two weeks before he resigned, Ntwaagae recorded an official reprimand against Stephen Makuke, the Director of Business Development who, interestingly, would briefly hold the fort as Acting CEO after Ntwaagae left. Makuke was faulted for “communicating to members of the Board [of Management] selectively and inappropriately … on your personal email address.” In an October 26, 2016 letter to then Minister of Transport and Communications and current Ambassador to the United States, Kitso Mokaila, Ntwaagae also alleged that a particular board member made “insinuations along tribal lines to the effect that because of the absence of a Mokalaka and/or Motswapong on the current Executive Team, things will never go right at Botswana Railways.” BR is itself a big part of the Trans-Kalahari Railway project having signed a memorandum of understanding with Namibia’s TransNamib to facilitate the joint development of the project.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.