Mmegi Blogs :: The Ever Secretive Kazungula Railway Line
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Friday 16 November 2018, 13:42 pm.
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The Ever Secretive Kazungula Railway Line

This is getting frustrating and baffling. For what seems a long time now I have been banging away about the Kazungula railway bridge without getting even a whisper of a response from the Ministry, from Botswana Railways (BR) or even from SADC.
By Sandy Grant Mon 19 Mar 2018, 13:44 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: The Ever Secretive Kazungula Railway Line








The assumption must be that the bridge’s rail line will somehow connect with Livingstone. The problem, repeatedly posed, is to know how it would link up with the South African rail network to Durban and/or Richard’s Bay, as has been regularly repeated? Checking the internet, I found that the President, in his State of the Nation address in 2009 had referred to the proposed ‘Mmamabula-Ellisras and Mosetse-Kazungula Rail Links’ and that Dr Gobotswang had urged him to be more transparent about them.

Nine years down the line and there is still no real information available although the head of BR was recently quoted in the press as saying that construction will be started within a year. But that was two months ago which means that only 10 months at maximum is now left. This is now more than ridiculous. The possible development of a rail link between Kazangula and Francistown and then on, somehow to Richard’s Bay is of enormous importance to this country. But no one has been willing to tell us exactly what work is soon to start, who will do the starting and what the starting will comprise? Then came last week’s report in the Guardian with President Mnangagwa’s late in the day attempt to reverse Mugabe’s earlier decision to pull out of the Kazungula bridge project.

The report then provided background information about SADC’s past involvement with the project but going no further forward than repeating the President’s statement of nine years ago. The brightest amongst us,  however, would have realised that Ellisras and Lephalale are the same place – I didn’t! But what is so special about Mosetse? Why would anyone in their right minds take a rail line there? Again, the brightest would have known that the rail line in question was between Kazungula and Francistown via Mosetse because it is there that it links up with the Francistown-Sowa line. So far so good. But how was this line supposed to provide SADC, why SADC? with a shorter alternative route through Lephalale joining the network in South Africa. Somehow, we make the jump from Mosetse/Francistown to Lephalala without a word being said by anyone as to how this is to be achieved! Some time ago, I picked up on a South African news story that Transnet, at its expense was developing a new line from Lephalale/Ellisraas to, somewhere on the Botswana

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border, perhaps Martin’s Drift although the President’s reference to Mmamabula suggests that Parr’s Halt may be the preferred option. Either way a massive, hugely expensive, new bridge across the Limpopo will be required.

Has work on this bridge already started without the National Assembly even knowing? Forget for the moment the P50,000 found in a dustbin although most of us must wonder who counted the cash and why, whoever put it there, would regard its placement as a sensible investment? It seems that there is an unbelievable amount of questionable money wafting around Gaborone.

Forget too the national petroleum fund and all those who have used and abused -  we will soon find out. Instead, come with me, for the moment, and recognise one of the current, and perhaps previous, government’s major failings, namely its inability to understand that good communication is an essential characteristic of modern day governance.

Why do the Ministries all have information officers when they are unable to say a word without the prior approval of the Permanent Secretary which seems only rarely to be given? Does this not mean salaries without jobs? The danger here, and it is, I suggest, a very real danger is that the government’s inability to communicate openly and honestly does generate enormous problems for itself. Possibly in good times, this might not be so serious.

But this is not a good time. In fact, it could hardly be worse. There will, therefore, be a suspicion, probably far-fetched, that the government’s preference for holding its cards close to its chest may be because opening up could threaten the interests of senior figures in government? How else can secrecy be interpreted? Realise, for instance, as most, of us have probably done, the likelihood of both huge personal and corporate gain and perhaps personal loss which a new rail link between Kazungula and perhaps Martin’s Drift represents.

It must follow that everyone in the upper echelons who knows exactly the route must have been daft if they had not used that knowledge to acquire every possible chunk of line along that very lengthy route.

Is this cynicism or desperately sad, realism? In past years there was a constant flow of information, largely speculative, about the two possible rail links to Namibia and Mozambique. This time around there has been none. Is there an explanation and if so, what could it possibly be?

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