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Mosetse-Kazungula railway welcome but...

CORRESPONDENT
Ebrahim PIC: KEOAGILE BONANG
I was very pleased to read in your Friday August 31 edition about Botswana Railways’ intention to build a railway line from Mosetse to Kazungula. This was one of my ideas when I served on the Board of Botswana Railways from 1990 to 2006.

I was the Chairperson of the Board from 2001 to 2006.  During my term, I went to the Ministry to propose that since the Railways were constructing a line up to Sowa, was it not possible to further extend it to Kazungula.

This was because Zambia was having problems using the rail line via Zimbabwe for its imports and exports.

Further, at the time there was a proposal to make Pandamatenga an ‘agricultural hub’.

With this in mind, it would have served a valuable role for the farmers to get their products onto the market.

I met with officials at the Ministry and put forward the proposals: however they came back to me with the ‘excuse’ that there was no bridge at Kazungula; I however responded that the trucks at the time used the ferry to cross, so they would still do so after picking up the cargo at Kazungula.

I even suggested that we put a container terminal there as we were constructing one in Gaborone.

This would allow the containerised goods to be delivered to Kasane and picked up there.

Needless to say, I never heard from them again. The result is that 20 plus years later, our North-South road is congested with heavily laden trucks and trailers crisscrossing the country.

Just travel the A1 road between Francistown and Gaborone and witness it for yourself.

The result is that there is a serious environmental pollution with the trucks spewing out gas emissions. Not only that, our roads are being severely damaged with the heavy volume of these heavily-laden

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trucks.

One can imagine the inflated costs of building the rail line some 20 years later - $800 million (US Dollars) as estimated today.

Another proposal that I had put to the Ministry officials was that we should consider building a link between Palapye, or even Mahalapye crossing into South Africa to join the rail line at Elisras a distance of less than 100 kms.

This was because South Africa was considering building the Medupi Power station there.

My argument was that we could supply our coal from Palapye to the power station.

The response again was negative. They said “South Africa has its own coal and they will not buy coal from us”.  I further argued that we could get our products into South Africa using a shorter route.

Fast-pedal to today, Medupi is buying our coal; it has to be transported via Gaborone/Mahikeng, almost making a u-turn and going back to Elisras, a journey of almost 1,000 kilometres!

And we have to supply the coal at delivered a cost. That means we have to pay for the transport costs.

I currently sit on the Botswana Ash Board and most of our salt and other sodium products are sold to the market in South Africa.

Once again the rail costs are a factor because our products have to be routed in a round-about via Mahikeng – a rail route already heavily congested.  

I can only say that we missed the opportunity of a lifetime because some people were just too lazy to exercise their minds. Enough said.

IQBAL EBRAHIM



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