Even before the arrival of the Covid 19 in early 2020, Botswana’s soda ash producing company – BOTASH says it has had to face its own mini-pandemic in the form of rail services inefficiencies along its regular route, precisely on the South African side.
The ‘derailment’ negatively impacts on the company’s production according to Managing Director – Kangangwani Phatshwane.
Phatshwane told a gathering at the commissioning of the 34 newly acquired wagons by Botswana Railways (BR) that for some time now, BOTASH have had falling inefficiencies of rail services between Botswana and South Africa.
“There have been many different reasons and the most significant one has been over the lines that are managed by Transnet. These problems are varied and amongst them is the security of rail infrastructure in the West Rand area in South Africa,” he said.
Phatshwane said that one of the more worrying challenges is that from time to time, communities that the rail track passes through decide often decide to shut it down. He said they are currently going on almost a month of shutdown at Orient hill, an area west of Johannesburg. He explained that these challenges talk of the deep socio economic problems be-devilling South Africa. Phatshwane said what has been even more worrying to them is that the South African government has often appeared less than prepared to confront this breaking of the law in a manner that interrupts critical transport arteries into the Johannesburg industrial hub.
“I appeal to you as the government to talk to your counterparts on the South African side and let us work on a solution that can eventually encourage trade between ourselves and South Africa and hopefully also contribute to the alleviation of socio economic problems that South Africa faces,” he said.
Among some of the challenges Phatshwane lamented on the poor state of the A3 road which connects BOTASH to Francistown. He said for the company to reach its full potential it does not only need efficient rail, but even good roads particularly between them and Francistown.
“The other challenge we have is that both Sowa town 20km to the east of here and the mine itself is not connected to the fibre network. We find that our communication is handicapped. We struggle with internet connectivity and all the like,” he said.
Botswana holds more that 440 million tons of Soda Ash, classified as the second largest in the world after Wyoming, USA.
BOTASH which is owned by the Botswana Government and a South African company Chlor Alkali Holdings at 50 percent shareholding each, produces a capacity of 300 000 tonnes of soda and 650 000 tonnes of salt per annum.