Molepolole: Tempers flared during a special full meeting of the Kweneng District Council yesterday when councillors demanded answers as to why the Matsha College students who were involved in a fatal accident on Friday, were transported in trucks when the local authority has buses. Council chairman Jeffrey Sibisibi called a special full council meeting to brief councillors because the welfare of most of the students was the responsibility of the council through the Remote Area Development (RAD) programme.
Seven students died while many others were admitted at four hospitals: 68 at Scottish Livingstone Hospital, 29 at Princess Marina Hospital, eight at Bokamoso Private Hospital and six at Gaborone Private Hospital. The driver and his assistant are among those admitted at Scottish Livingstone Hospital.
The students were going to their homes after writing form five examinations on Friday when their truck overturned near Dutlwe in the Letlhakeng Sub-District. The truck, similar to those that carry cattle, had 126 students on board.
Matters nearly got out of hand at yesterday’s full council after Sibisibi’s brief, when councillor Botokanyana Motoroko moved a motion that the chairperson’s statement should not be debated. “You have briefed us well Mr Chairman,” Motoroko said. “I don’t think there is need for us to debate or comment on the issue since investigations are still ongoing. Our comments or debates could affect police investigations.”
However, councillor for Borakalalo ward, Arafat Khan dismissed the proposal, saying it was tantamount to muzzling free speech.
“We are supposed to comment on the speech after the briefing. We cannot tolerate what you are trying to do. Gare dimumu golo ha. Unless you know something that we don’t know,” he said. Khan was supported by Thamaga North councillor, Palelo Maotosane and three others.
Motokoro’s motion was defeated with a compromise that at most five councillors should debate the motion.
Thamaga West councillor, Molatedi Selala, said the council secretary should brief councillors because transport falls under his administration. He said he could not understand why officers used a truck when the council had buses.
Selala said: “We need answers so that we can explain to families when questioned. The affected families and children fall under our council. It’s best we have answers as councillors. Again it is not clear whether all the children involved in that accident were under the RAD programme.”
Maotosane said the council secretary should provide a detailed report on what happened and why his office preferred a truck despite the ban to use trucks to transport school children. “This is not time to be pointing fingers at anyone but answers should be provided,” Maotosane said.
Councillor Michael Bagopi of Mokgopetsane said some of the reports on the accident were full of holes and many questions were yet to be answered.
“It is still not clear what mode of transportation for RAD students will be used going forward,” he said. “Another questions is: How many kids was that truck supposed to carry and how are we going to help as councillors.” The council secretary, Wazha Tema, promised councillors that investigations on the matter would not take long.
“I was on leave when the tragedy befell our nation but I had to come back. I went straight to see the affected families. My promise to this house is that investigations are ongoing from my office.
I have asked the relevant officers to give us answers on why they preferred to use trucks instead of a bus,” Tema said.
Kweneng district commissioner, Boingotlo Ngaka, said money from the disaster relief fund was used to buy clothes for all the children admitted in hospitals. Parents who attend to their hospitalised children would be provided with accommodation and food.
Ngaka said: “We have already provided tents to families of deceased children and we will build toilets where possible. In some homes, we will also provide Jojo tanks for water where necessary and take full responsibility for the funeral costs. “Vehicles are on standby for those who will be discharged from hospitals. I plead with the nation to keep on assisting these children.”