Sunday, October 17, 2021

Union wanted 2008 termination of passenger train investigated

The Permanent Secretary is most senior officer in a government ministry but when he held that position in the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Mabua Mabua could not get an investigative committee to find out why the Botswana Railways passenger train service was terminated.

Following representations made to his office by the Botswana Railways Amalgamated Workers Union (BRAWU) in 2010, Mabua appointed a six-person committee to investigate issues of concern about the management of the Rolling Stock Section. Midway through the process, BRAWU asked that two more issues be looked into – one related to the termination of the passenger train service. The coaches were in extremely bad shape thus compromising the safety of passengers that the train ferried between Plumtree (a Zimbabwean border town) and Lobatse. BRAWU asked that investigators should look into why “the passenger coaches [reached] an unsafe state that resulted in the termination of the passenger train.”

Something even odder was happening. Prior to the service being discontinued, some spare parts for the coaches had been ordered. Way after the termination of the service, the parts for the coaches that had by now been retired, were still coming in. The union wanted investigators to look into “why spare parts are still arriving after the termination of the passenger train” as well as find out the value of those parts “and what management intends to do with them.” The union also wanted answers on management’s plans for the coaches and generator van which were stabled in Lobatse. Mabua agreed to this request, noting in his February 22, 2011 letter that “Considering that the [investigation] team is already in Mahalapye, I am inclined to support the suggestion of BRAWU.” He went a step farther and authorised the inclusion of the items the union wanted investigated. To no avail.  A union letter dated July 11, 2011 says that “the committee felt that it could not be adequately done because the request came too late when they were nearing completion.”

Some of the information that the union wanted would soon be made available. Management announced that the coaches would be sold off to Mozambique. Sometime thereafter, BRAWU leaders learnt through fellow trade unionists who work for the Mozambique Ports and Railways that the coaches had been reconditioned.

“Our comrades in Mozambique tell us that the coaches are still being used as rolling stock for their passenger trains,” says Gaebepe Molaodi, BRAWU’s chairperson.

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