A motion to retreat the termination of railway passenger services train has recently been discarded of as not an urgent matter by parliament deputy speaker, Thebe Mogami.
Botswana Railways (BR) had of late announced its decision to terminate the usage of its passenger train services effective 1st of April this year.
BR, which has claimed to have been making a loss of 30 million pula annually, had also admitted to putting the lives of its passengers at risk by ignoring servicing requirements of the train for over 10 years.
The decision to stop the train services was allegedly to curb losses of millions by BR and for passenger safety reasons.
Mover of the Motion, the allegedly ‘controversial’ Pono Moatlhodi, and Member of Parliament For Tonota South, claimed that it was important for the termination of passenger services to be halted because it disadvantages Batswana.
The BDP member noted how convenient the usage of train services were to Batswana, especially those from the north, citing that it was way cheaper for people to use trains than road transport thus the stoppage would inconvenience Batswana.
Moatlhodi also revealed how he shares most of Batswana’s fears about the expected increment of road accidents on Botswana roads should the termination go ahead.
“Former president Festus Mogae had already mentioned how the growing rates of road accidents were killing Batswana even more than the number one killer disease, HIV/AIDS. Obviously, the stoppage of the train services would mean more accidents as the road usage would be increased,” said Moatlhodi.
According to Mogami, the motion tabled by the MP was not strong enough to disrupt the duties of the day; he claimed he did not see the motion as urgent because it was a motion that had been known by parliament and the public at large.
“The minister has failed to provide substantial grounds or reasons to disrupt the duties of the day. I am not convinced that this should be treated as an urgent matter,” said Mogami.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Standard, Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central, Botswana Congress Party’s Dumelang Saleshando, says he was quite indifferent to the motion because he felt “the mover of the motion, must have lobbied for the issue first”.
However, Saleshando does not support the way the speaker disregarded the urgency of the matter citing that April the 1st is around the corner and if parliament was to wait until after the termination to address the issue then a lot of people would be disadvantaged.
“In other countries, governments promote the use of rail transport because it’s convenient for safety reasons and for ferrying a mass number of people compared to road transport,” says Saleshando.
In acknowledging the fact that some of the passenger trains have been risking passenger’s lives by ignoring servicing for more than 10 years, Saleshando was quick to point out that that is a different matter altogether.
“The safety part of the passenger trains should be addressed separately from the issue of preventing the termination; it could definitely be addressed immediately after BT retracts the terminations,” said Saleshando.