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A Bridge and An Arms cache

SANDY GRANT
With the Daily News recently reporting that the President had checked the progress on the new Kazangula bridge, it really is time that the government tells us more about the railway that is an important part of its design.

My take on this is that making provision for a railway line is sensible and farsighted. It maybe that this new line may never be constructed – as with those to Namibia and Mozambique. But if, for whatever reason, a railway line to Zambia becomes a priority, an entirely new bridge would not need to be constructed, at probably crippling cost.  

However, the geography worries me. Many people, being aware that Rhodes’ bridge across the Falls links Zimbabwe and Zambia will wonder why a new link between thtis country and Zambia is necessary. 

They will ask why the link between Francistown, Bulawayo, the Falls and Zambia is inappropriate or inadequate and certainly unused. They will certainly wonder about the factors which might make a new more direct line, cutting out Zimbabwe, a better bet than the old link.

I assume, however, that the Francistown – Bulawayo link has been deliberately allowed to fall away although presumably it could still be resuscitated. 

But my understanding, such as it is, is that the three country agreement to build the Kazangula bridge, collapsed when Zim pulled out. This meant that a bridge designed to link this country and Zimbabwe was undercut and that it had to be re-designed with a kink to take it instead to Zambia. I am unclear about the geography on the other side of those borders but assume, either way, that a rail link would have to pass through Livingstone. From there, it would be of course, away to wherever. But there is a need now for the government to spell out how it is conceiving a future rail link between Kazangula and Francistown. 

My problem is that Francistown provides, at the moment, only the one not so helpful route out – to Gaborone, Mahikeng and Cape Town. This would make it irrelevant to the Rand area, and to Durban.  It would also make it more or less irrelevant to Namibia since the connection would be so extraordinarily devious. 

The government does need to tell us how it foresees the possible functioning of this new rail line.  While it might be a gain in terms of tourism, it is unlikely that tourism alone could make it viable.

 So, the issue must be freight traffic.  I am then going to presume that the viability of this line would depend not on the existing rail network but on the construction of an entirely

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new line linking Palapye and Elisraas and Jamesburg. But is it remotely realistic to think that such a line could be constructed? 

There have been whispers about the construction of this line but all have been linked to coal. Take coal out of the equation, and what is left? But before leaving this topic, I must refer to recent rumors that parts of the construction work on the bridge has involved the use of poor quality materials, that one company has quit and that there have been the now usual fiddles with the consideration of tenders.

The Kazangula bridge is a marvelous project. But if it goes wrong, it will be a monumental disaster to be placed with the airports, the stadiums and Morupule. The President simply cannot afford to let his legacy turn on a bridge with construction faults.

But enough of bridges, let me now turn to the Sunday Standard’s recent report that a substantial arms cache had recently been found in the Kgatleng.  The discovery was of course of great public interest but the information provided was infuriatingly inadequate.

What the Standard did tell us was the detail about the weaponry found, so many AK47s, rocket launchers and the like. What it did not tell is was where this cache was found, on whose land it was found, and exactly how it was found. Self evidently, it could not have been ploughing which turned it up, unless this tshimo had not been ploughed in years.

Obviously too it could not have been found by someone with a metal detector. So what is left, either an informant which is the most likely, probably the owner himself or after the recent rains, a wash away?  Until we can get a dating on those weapons, we will not be able to begin to get a handle on the circumstances by which they were buried.

If this particular tshimo happens to have been owned by Kgosi Linchwe, we may begin to arrive at a more satisfactory and convincing explanation than that offered by Mbeki. If it was not his tshimo, questions about identity, allegiances, and origins are opened up. But weaponry is very heavy and whoever created that crèche had transport or access to transport, and help. 

Will the Sunday Standard please follow up the story so that it does not become yet another one that is allowed to die away.



Etcetera II

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