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A Railway Line that Goes Nowhere and Lions in Our Midst

Last week it was all about confusion. This week for me itís more about the need for information than anything else, the first concern, the Kazangula Bridge, is one that I have previously mentioned.

The second, the Gaborone Game Reserve, is entirely new.  The bridge, in my view, one of the greatest of the many projects the country has undertaken since Independence, does however puzzle me no end. Take the Telegraph’s report (August 23) which quotes the Daewoo Company Bridge consultant, Joseph Nyirenda, as explaining that ‘the bridge will also have a rail track between two road traffic lanes, which with the road will ‘enhance transportation of cargo and passenger traffic along the North-South corridor... and the port of Durban.’

Now, I have previously raised concerns about both the road and the railway without obtaining a hoped for explanation.

I assume that, as far as this country is concerned, the north-south road corridor will link Kazangula with Durban and that this will be upgraded along its entire length. Nowhere, however, have I been able to discover if work has indeed started on this upgrading or that plans to do so are in the pipeline? Failing anything else, might SADC say a word or two about this?

My other concern is the rail line which to the north will be taken on to Livingstone. But what will happen to it at the Botswana end? Where is it intended or believed or hoped that one day this now non-existent line will pass?

Over all the years of the project’s long gestation, I have been unable to pick up even a single word about this crucially important question. Let’s reduce the potential difficulties by supposing that the line will somehow be carried through to Francistown where it will link up with the one and only existing rail line.

The problem is that this line runs south, not east, to Mafikeng, Kimberley and Cape Town. Is it intended that all the new rail traffic will then use the old Mafikeng to Joburg route, if that is still possible, or will it pick up a presumably new line from Francistown to Durban?  

What is SADC doing if it has not, long ago, got all this so worked out and agreed that plans are already being implemented? Why are we not being told what is planned and underway? Without such plans it seems that we have constructed a new stretch of railway line without anywhere to go. My next concern – the Gaborone Game Reserve.

The Monitor of the August 7 reported that the Department of Wildlife with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),

has ‘identified the game reserve for lions in an effort to turn Gaborone into a tourist area as well as help increase the lion population which has been on the decline’. It is almost impossible to think of anything more inappropriate or ridiculous. There are a number of concerns here. Are lions the only thought that has come to mind if those two agencies are so concerned about upping Gaborone’s tourist potential?  

Has the place no history which might be of interest to a tourst, or is Gaborone indeed a place without a past? But what kinds of tourist were they having in mind? The foreign or domestic tourist, or perhaps the local schools? If those two want to put lions somewhere, why not take them to Mokolodi which is at least a bit more distant from Gaborone.

Or if Mokolodi was approached, did it politely decline? But what kind of a place might be required for relocating lions. Presumably Wildlife and the UNDP, after careful study, have concluded that the Game Reserve is more or less appropriate. But did they tell the City Council or was this regarded as irrelevant? After a long break, we did visit the Game Reserve the other day to try and get some idea about its present state.

It was a discouraging, depressing experience.  Admittedly we were not there at the best viewing times of day, but we saw little wildlife, a great many phala, many monkeys being fed by a BMW driver ahead of us (why is it always BMW drivers?), ostrich, one kudu, two zebras and that was about it. But even after the last rains, the place was wasted and depressing, Nothing on the ground and the trees gaunt and leaf-less.

And the smell from the sewerage ponds being as over powering as ever. Possibly to be tolerated by the lions and the existing wildlife, but not much of a tourist attraction!

What kind of an asset is this place? What real value is it to Gaborone? Where are the figures? Where are the improvements or is it simply being allowed to chug along in the same old way? It’s difficult not to believe that this considerable chunk of land, stink or no stink, could be better used than dumping lions there with killing (sorry) rates of insurance coverage which will need to be paid by Wildlife and the City Council.


Etcetera II



Ntsha nkgo re kgaritlhe

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