While many pointed fingers at her and the late driver, Boipuso Tshwanela, trainee mainline engineman, Doreen Motsewetsho, 28, has refused to take the blame.
Despite board members repeating questions to Motsewetsho telling her that her statements did not tally with those of others, she maintained her innocence.
Motsewetsho publicly appeared before the Board of Enquiry investigating circumstances leading to the derailment of the Botswana Railways (BR) passenger train in December 2019.
Tshwanela and Permanent Way Inspector (PWI) Kgomotso Saitsoketsa, who were with Motsewetsho and her assessor David Sima, in the locomotive lost their lives. According to Motsewetsho, they left the Lobatse station late as they had been told to wait for the commuter train, which was delayed by heavy rains to arrive at the border town.
She further stated that she questioned the authorities why she had to use the BD5 locomotive to haul passenger trains only to be told that the BD2 had some problems. “It was my first time to operate the locomotive hauling passenger coaches. The difference I noticed is that when hauling passenger coaches it is lighter and gains speed faster,” she said.
Motsewetsho told the board that when she left Gaborone, she was told that they would be joined by PWI Saitsoketsa at Pallaroad to help them view the railway line at Bonwapitse as it was known to be a hotspot.
She, however, denied that the controller in Gaborone told her that Saitsoketsa was to join them in order to help navigate the rail for 40 kilometres from Pallaroad to Mahalapye. She further denied that she had been warned about the specific spot where the accident at 464km peg and that she had been told to keep her speed at 40km/hour on the stretch. Even when board members expressed shock as how she did not get the important information, which other people knew, she maintained that she was only told to be cautious at Bonwapitse.
“After passing the Pallaroad level crossing I could see water by the railway line and slowed down and I was travelling at 62km/hour. I passed the water and
Board members expressed shock as to why she would not apply brakes when she saw danger ahead. They further questioned whether she was indeed travelling at the speed she said she was and if she was sure there was no water by the railway line where the train derailed when she approached. The calm Motsewetsho maintained her response and said that the water found at the scene could have built up as the derailed coaches had blocked it.
Board chairpeson, Olefile Moakofi, like his colleagues expressed shock at Motsewetsho’s submissions stating that her account of events was not as alluded to by others who came before her including her assessor.
Moakofi also stated that it was only being clear to him that Motsewetsho was not being assessed, but rather being instructed when the accident occurred.
He further told her that people who appeared before the board wanted to pin the accident on her and the late Tshwanela. He, however, said the idea was not to blame anyone but rather to get facts and be able to improve BR operations to avoid further accidents.
Moakofi and his team expressed concern over the quality of training given to the trainee mainline enginemen (drivers). They expressed shock that the same assessor would at times be an instructor something they said needs to be revised. They further questioned the criteria used to assess after Motsewetsho seemed not sure how they are to be assessed for them to be certified as qualified. She stated that they wrote tests and had to drive 40 trains, but could not answer as to whether there is also distance or number of hours they have to drive.