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BFTU to BR: 'Account for train accident!'

PINI BOTHOKO
Passenger train derailed near Mahalapye Tuesday resulting in two fatalities PIC: KOKETSO KGOBOGE
Following the passenger train accident that killed two Botswana Railways (BR) employees on Tuesday, The Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) has called for the rail operator to account for the loss of lives.

The accident that killed two BR employees, a trainman and a permanent way inspector occurred due to heavy downpours around 2am this week near Bonwapitse River between Pallaroad and Mahalapye.

It was reported that the Francistown-bound train carrying around 400 passengers broke down and some coaches derailed leaving a trainee locomotive driver and her accompanying instructor admitted at the hospital.

There were no fatalities amongst the passengers even though some sustained injuries. In view of the situation, the BFTU called for BR management to account for the loss of lives and damages to the rail line, locomotive and coaches, accusing management of negligence.

In a statement, BFTU Secretary General, Thusang Butale on Wednesday demanded that the Minister of Transport and Communication should ensure that necessary action is taken against BR management.

Butale also said they have noted how locomotive accidents have been too frequent over the past three years. He further stated that it is important for the reports of the accidents to be thoroughly analysed and interventions made to ensure that future occurrences are averted. He went on to state that Botswana Transport and General Workers Union (BTGWU) also raised concerns about safety and warned BR management during management and union meetings that have gone unheeded.

“The latest meeting was held on December 5th. This is further evidence of the deterioration of a safety culture that has

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seen BR being the first in SADC to be issued a permit by the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR). It is clear that by continuously failing to heed safety warning from BTGWU and staff, BR management has been negligent and need to be made to account,” Butale said.

He further stated their demand to the Minister of Transport and Communication to ensure that necessary actions are taken against BR management.  Furthermore Butale said BFTU is also calling on transport minister to call upon the regulator to investigate the accident and issue a report to the nation.

Butale said the report would shed more light on the status of the BR because frequent accidents dented the image of the rail transport and could lead to Botswana losing the RSR permit.

“We are reiterating that an injury to one is an injury to all and also we are mindful that threats to labour rights somewhere are threats to labour rights everywhere. We therefore call on employers in Botswana to strengthen and invest in improving safety in their workplace by implementing proper safety standards,” he said. 

Butale said risk assessments must be carried out in all workplaces and action plans for preventive measures drawn and followed.  He also called on the government of Botswana to improve labour inspections as well as ratify and domesticate safety and health conventions.



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