Statement on the Matsha School tragedy by the Leader of the Opposition

Duma Boko
Duma Boko

Statement on the Matsha School tragedy by the Leader of the Opposition as delievered in Parliament

LEADER OF OPPOSITION (MR BOKO): Thank you very much Mr Speaker. I rise under Standing Order 9.3.2 to make this statement. I thank you for the opportunity you have given me to address this House on the tragedy that befell this nation just a few days ago. Ponder this. Young people full of promise and vitality sat their final high school leaving examinations at Matsha Senior Secondary School. They looked forward to a bright future as engaged and innovative citizens of their country. Their parents looked forward to meeting and welcoming them home after months of absence. Many families looked forward to happy reunions with their children.

Unbeknown to all and indeed to many Batswana, there was a tragedy in the making. It had long been coming. It began when the government neglected its responsibility to ensure the safety and security of hundreds of students both in ensuring they received the highest quality of education available and in providing for a safe and dignified means of transportation for them. It continued when state action or inaction conspired to load over 126 students together with their luggage onto a truck. The storms of catastrophe had long been looming large on the horizon.

The warning signs had long been visible. Indeed tragedies of this nature have struck so many times before that their recurrence can only point to grotesque criminality on the part of Government. The nation recalls with renewed dread and grief, that in 1995 nine students and one teacher of Gosemama Secondary School in Tswapong died while others were seriously injured. In the same year, again two Setlalekgosi Secondary School students died around Dikabeya while travelling in a school truck. In 2003, five students from Kedia Primary School in the Boteti area died when the truck they were travelling in overturned. In March 2005, two students of Shakawe Secondary School in Boteti died in yet another truck accident. Others including teachers were seriously injured. Many teachers and former students today carry scars of life changing injuries as a constant reminder of the gruesome abdication of responsibility by Government and its agents. The youth of this country deserves better. The parents and citizens of this country deserve better. Botswana deserves better. Much better!


The people of this country deserve to be taken seriously and are tired of being offered a future that is in every respect a repetition of the painful past they have suffered.

The joyful anticipation of the residents of Salajwe, Ditshegwane, Maboane, Sorilatholo, Sesung, Mantshwabisi, Takatokwane, Kaudwane and many other areas in the Kweneng West turned into lancinating pain when they received the news of this tragedy. It was rough, it was raw and it was real for them. Their own children were the victims of this truck accident. I feel their pain. I feel their profound sense of disappointment. It is gut wrenching when the same Government you look to for your safety and protection most callously lets you down.

I saw the pain etched on the dejected faces of the parents and relatives of many of these innocent children. I felt the grief breathed out in the tormented silence of those who could not find the words to verbalize their pain and their suffering. Some cried out to me. Their tears were as much an expression of their grief as they were a poignant condemnation of this ragged tradition of executive heartlessness. How did these innocent human beings come to be transported in the manner they were? And now we see different Government Ministers and officials including the President jostling for pre-eminence and feigning alarm and concern. Too late. Too late! Our children, Botswana’s young citizens are gone. Those who remain will carry the visible and invisible scars of the systemic brutality of our Government.

I can only offer the parents and students and teachers of Matsha Secondary School, unarmed truth and unapologetic love. I make a solemn pledge to them and the whole nation on my own behalf, on behalf of the entire cohort of UDC and BCP Members of Parliament and indeed on behalf of all Batswana: NEVER AGAIN.

To the parents and students I say, those that have brought about this hurt and harm upon you and the nation will be brought to atone before the judgment seat of justice and equity.

To the children of Nswazwi in Marapong, Sekhutlane, Lerolwana, Leporung, Mmakgori, Dikhukhung and Mokgomane who study in Mabule in the Goodhope-Mabule Constituency, who are still being transported in trucks I say, NEVER AGAIN!

To the Government of Botswana under the leadership of Dr. President Khama I say, please take the people of this country more seriously than you have ever done. Please ensure that they are also as much beneficiaries of the constitutional precepts of equality before the law as yourselves and your relatives. And, please offer and do so openly and publicly an unreserved apology to the affected families as well as full compensation for the gruesome losses these families have suffered.

To the parents and families of the deceased I pray for comfort and peace.

Thank you Mr Speaker.

HONOURABLE MEMBERS:…(Applause)…

MR SPEAKER:Order! Honourable Members, jaaka e le tsamaiso, ke tlaa le letlelela gore le mmotse dipotso, le tlhaloganye gore o ne a reng, fa le eletsa go mmotsa.

MR MARKUS: Fela jaaka le nna ke le mo kutlobotlhokong ya se se diragetseng, le nna ke lela le mongwe le mongwe yo o lelang, go le maswe fela jaaka go le botlhoko jaana. Ke re ke botse Rre Boko gore a fa a ntse a nankola dikotsi tse tsotlhe jaana, nako ya gago fa o ka busa wa nna lucky, a wena rra mo pusong ya gago ga go kake ga nna le dikotsi? Ke ne ke re o ntlhalosetse potso eo gore ga di kake tsa nna teng, ka ke bona o kare o bua thata ka truck. Ke batla go itse gore a dikotsi fela mo go wena ga di na go nna teng? Ga ke dumalane le goromente go tsamaisa bana ka diteraka, ke dumalana le wena, mme ke batla go itse fela gore a wena nako e o busang, ga go na go nna le dikotsi? Gape ke go botse gore golo fa, fa o ntse o bua jaana, gongwe you are so much hungry for power o batla mileage wa gore golo kwa o lebiwe gore you care for the nation. Gongwe ke sone se o se dirang gompieno, o re tlhalosetse gore ga o dire jalo rra?

LEADER OF OPPOSITION (MR BOKO): Honourable Markus, I cannot give you any assurance that they may be no accidents under a Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Government. What assurance I can give you unequivocally however is that, no student will be transported in trucks under the UDC Government, none, not at all. I consider it an act of gross irresponsibility to have had children transported in this manner and I say, very solemnly, very humbly, please assist me in making sure it never happens again.

Political Mileage

Far be it from me, at this point of time especially in circumstances so tragic to seek to exact any mileage, politically or otherwise. What I want is for those who are responsible for this callousness to account openly, account humbly and account with integrity to the nation so that we can all join in insuring that our people do not perish ever again in similar circumstances. I hope you will work with me and work with everybody who seeks to attain this goal. Thank you.

MINISTER OF EDUCATION AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT (DR DOW): Thank you Mr Speaker, thank you Honourable Leader of the Opposition. I have a question for you, to premise it with saying that there are those who thrive on the calamities of others, there are those who dance on the graves of the fallen, there are those who deride when they see an opportunity to use a calamity in their favour. The question to you Sir is -, and let me also premise by saying like you wished that children would be protected at all times and therefore like you, I bleed for these seven children who have perished and the many others who have been injured.

The question to you Sir is that, you say this Government has demonstrated grotesque brutality, was this an isolated incidence or are you aware that…

HONOURABLE MEMBER:…(Inaudible)…

HONOURABLE MEMBER: …(Laughter)…

DR DOW: Ke bue?

HONOURABLE MEMBER: Bua.

MR SPEAKER:Oder! Honourable Members, mo reetseng. Honourable Dow, tswelela.

DR DOW: Thank you very much. I will start again. Have you yourself witnessed, seen children being transported in trucks? If so, what did you do and or what did you say? Because if you have seen that, witnessed it and said nothing and waited until there was a calamity, then you are as complicit as anybody else who is responsible for this accident. Thank you Mr Speaker.

MR BOKO: Thank you very much Honourable Dow. I am pleased to answer you and also to note that you are a lawyer, at least in your earlier life and you actually even became a Judge. And I had the honour to appear before you several times.

In relation to your prefatory statement that people thrive on the calamity of others, it is often said that even lawyers do that yourself included, by virtue of the nature of the profession and that we normally come into the scene after events have occurred and we seek to exact some recompense and accountability from those who were responsible either through commission or omission.

In relation to the first part, it is a general criticism leveled even in relation to Medical Doctors. My good friend Honourable Madigele might know.

In relation to the more pointed question that you asked and it is important that this question be brought to the full. I personally was not aware that children in this day and age were being transported in this manner, I was not aware. You say also Honourable Member that you were not aware also.

In relation to you in particular as the Minister of Education it behooves you to be aware. It is your responsibility directly for which you are in that position to be aware and that if the errors of either of omission or commission in relation to your charges, those under you, who were aware, redound against you, in this matter.

And so in relation to you it does not lie in your mouth Honourable Minister to plead ignorance in relation to this matter, it does not. It should not avail you. In fact, you should not even seek to find solace and refuge under the claim of ignorance in relation to this matter. No! Not in relation to you Minister. No! No! Maybe somebody else; not you.

I raise this solemnly; if there may be any one amongst us who was aware and did not raise alarm, did not protest then the words of the Honourable Member will haunt you, in that you would then be complicit. Honourable Goya, you would be complicit if you were aware and I hope you can also pretend that you were not but if you were, then you are in trouble from the tribunal of your own conscience. Thank you very much.

MR MOSWAANE: Ke ne ke re lantlha fela ka ntata ya kotsi e, re nne re gopola ka dithapelo ba ba tlhokafaletsweng, le romele matshidiso kwa go bone gore Modimo a nne le bone.

Ke ne ke re ke botse Morena Boko gore, a kotsi e, go ya ka ene, mo godimo ga gore puso e ne e tsere tshwetso ya gore go se ka ga tlhola go nna le ope modiri wa puso yo o ka tsayang bana ka open trucks, a mo nakong ya gompieno o dumela gore puso e ne file modiri yoo an exemption ya gore wena o le nosi jaanong o ka tsaya tshwetso ya to transport bana kgatlhanong le se puso e se laetseng?

E nngwe ke re ke mmotse gore, ‘a wa re kotsi e was planned by the government ka bohahalele?’ Ke re ke botse gore a are golo mo e ne e le bohahalele jwa puso ka fa go ntseng ka teng?

MR SPEAKER: O nne mokhutshwane Rraetsho, ke batla re tswelela le lenaneo.

MR MOSWAANE: E nngwe ke re, a mme go maleba mo nakong ya gompieno fa botsadi bo santse bo lela, bo dira dipatlisiso, lona le bo le simolotse go itaya phupu re bina?

HONOURABLE MEMBER:…(Murmur)…

MR MOSWAANE: Nnyaa, o a rogana moruti. Ene o seka wa tlhola o boelela wena Nkaigwa, never ever, o tlaa ikotlhaya.

MR SPEAKER:Order! Order! Honourable Moswaane, nna fa fatshe. Honourable Nkaigwa, o ne o bua o sa tshuba microphone, mme ke go utlwile. Ga ke letlelele maitseo a mofuta oo mo Ntlong. Ga a letlelelwe ke Standing Orders. Jaanong, ke kopa gore o lese go dira jalo. A re itseyeng jaaka bagolo. Batho ba teng fa ba tlile go le reetsa, fa go tlhwaafetswe le nne le tlhwaafala.

MR B. BUTALE:On a point of procedure. Mr Speaker, ke ne ke kopa gore Honourable Nkaigwa a boele mafoko ao morago officially. A ikope maitshwarelo e seng jalo, e nna open season Mr Speaker. Ke a leboga.

HONOURABLE MEMBER: O ne are ke bohema jwa maDomkrag?

MR SPEAKER:Order! Stop shouting mo Palamenteng. Gatwe go rileng kante? Honourable Member, ga ke kake ka re a dire jalo ka gore it was not recorded, o ne a kua ke mo utlwile, but it was not recorded. Mme fela ga a kake a boelela, fa a ka boelela o tla nkitse sentle.

MR MOSWAANE: Ke re ke botse gore a ke time, ke mo reye sengwe?

MR SPEAKER: O seka.

ASSISTANT MINISTER OF EDUCATION AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT (MR GOYA):On a point of procedure. Mr Speaker, ke tlotla e bile ke tlhompha tshwetso e o e tsereng. Mme ke tsaya gore fa o ne o le bokgakala jo bo kana le Honourable Nkaigwa a bua mafoko a a ntseng jalo, o bo o mo utlwa, ke tsaya gore le gone mo Ntlong e, go na le bangwe ba re mo utlwileng. Go na le ba bangwe ba e leng gore ga se Batlotlegi Mapalamente ba ba mo utlwileng. Ba e leng gore e tla re kamoso, ba tloga ba tsaya gore mo Palamenteng go dirwa jaana. Ke kopa ka tsweetswee o reye Motlotlegi Honourable Nkaigwa a boele mafoko ao kwa morago ka gore, ga se tsamaiso ya Ntlo e gore re letlelelwe go buisanya mo go ntseng jalo.

MR SPEAKER: I have made a ruling on that. Honourable Moswaane, o feditse gakere?

MR MOSWAANE: Nnyaa Rra.

MR SPEAKER:Order! Ke rile le botse dipotso tse dikhutshwane. You are not supposed to be making statements le lona. You are wasting time, le tshwanetse to debate State of the Nation Address, ga ke itse gore go tlile go diragala eng. A o feditse go botsa, o arabiwe re tswelele. Botsa ka pele o fetse re tswelele.

MR MOSWAANE: Ke re a mo nakong ya gompieno, ka mafoko a tiriso ya ga Morena Boko ya gore ene o tla sekisa, a ba tseela dikgato, a mme mo go ipokeng mo go kanakana, a ga a bone ekete o kgaoganya setshaba sa Botswana ka go dira kabomo? A pateletsa puso gore e ne e dira kabomo le mororo a itse gore golo moo go diragetse e le kotsi e e sa rulaganngwang? Ke a leboga Motsamaisa Dipuisanyo tsa Palamente. Wena Nkaigwa.

MR BOKO: Thank you very much Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, let me urge the Members of this House to be respectful of each other and each other’s views and to use language that is not unpalatable. I say this because it is important for us to appreciate we will have differences. Some of them will be very serious. But let us always mediate these differences with civility and respect. Let us all try to do that. Let us respect each other and respect the House.

We will make some of these statements and remarks and make them because we are aggrieved by the situation and we make them at the worst of times as what philosophers call an ‘interlocutor,’ the one who disagrees with you in order to bring out the best in you and please always, it is a fundamental principle, respect your interlocutor. He is the one who helps you refine your own thoughts and ideas. And if you cannot dislodge him or her from his position at the very least, it will help you reflect more and more on your own. Let us treat each other with respect.

Did the Government plan this? To the extent Honourable Members that as I understand, decisions were taken way back that it would never ever again occur that children be transported in trucks. If that position is correct, the failure to strenuously and enforce it by government or government agents amounts to a grotesque failure in respect of which the Government is liable and that takes care of all facets of the questions asked by Honourable Moswaane. To the extent that you say I have promised that those who have been involved here either by commission on mission will account, I say it again, I say it solemnly, I say it humbly, I say it with the most concrete seriousness that the parents, the relatives and every citizen must know that their loss will not be in vain. That is why I say to the government, here and now, do not wait for any litigation to come, please do not. Be proactive, assess the quantum of loss to these families and offer in good spirit, offer, do not wait to be prodded, offer reasonable compensation to these families please, we say so, we say so. I am not talking about two herds of cattle to bury. I am talking full and adequate compensation for the huge loss that these families have suffered. To watch your child grow, to drink in the many pleasures associated with raising and nurturing a life is a benefit that the parents of these children will not enjoy in relation to the departed.

There are many instances in American cases they call DeShaney versus Winnebago. The court said to drink in these pleasures of raising a child is one of the most important attributes of parenthood. If this accident has taken this away from these parents, it calls for somerecompense. Please offer. Please take into account these losses and without being frauded by any lawyer or litigation, I say to you, I urge you now humbly, make the right offer to these families and compensate them fully. Thank you.

ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR PRESIDENTIAL AFFAIRS AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION (MR MAKGALEMELE): Ke a go leboga Mr Speaker. Ke na le dipotso tse pedi. Potso ya ntlha, ke botse Motlotlegi Moeteledipele wa Kganetso gore ke eng that he considers to be a reasonable compensation ka ke foo o setse a e buile go santse go dirwa ditshekatsheko?

Sa bobedi ke re, ka gore statement se se dirilweng ke Motlotlegi Molale earlier this week, se supile gore go dirwa dipatlisiso tsa go bona gore go diragetseng, ke eng se se go pitlagantseng mo go kalokalo? Maabane le letse le rile le tla ka motion, o padile, gompieno o tla ka statement. Ke eng se se dirang gore le itlhaganele mo go kanakana, why can you not allow gore ditlhotlhomiso di dirwe and then we take the matter from there? Especially that go clear like Honourable Dow a ne a bua, ga gona ope yo o neng a itse gore tiragalo eo e ka direga.In the figures tse o ntseng o di bua, the last tragedyif ke ne ke go reeditse sentle, it was in 2005. It has been almost 10 years since go diragetse jalo mme go beilwe in place some measures. So, what is the hurry?

HONOURABLE MEMBER: …(Murmurs)…

MR SPEAKER:Order. Honourable Salakae. O letleletswe ke mang go bua, fa o a bo o kua jaana?

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION (MR BOKO): Thank you very much Honourable Makgalemele. There are many methods of determining the scale of compensation, lawyers know this. And if it comes to a point where some of us have to be involved, we will accordingly advice. What the government must do even before that quantum is determined, is to offer compensation, whatever amount it will ultimately be established to be. Offer; make the offer in the same way that you have offered two herd of cattle to bury. You have not offered one, you have not offered 2, you have not offered 10, but you have offered 2. Make a general offer that you will compensate because you are liable.

To the extent that you say the last tragedy occurred years back, I do not understand you to be so suggesting that the transportation of children in trucks has stopped. In fact, not only have I made reference to this tragedy, I have referred to other places in Goodhope-Mabule in respect of which I have now become aware that the same mode of transportation is being employed by your government. I am since becoming aware raising it here and now on the floor of Parliament, in the hope as I said that you will join me in ensuring that it does not recur never again.

That is the upshot of my answer to you. And please, do not understand this to be exerting any mileage. I do not need to exert mileage. I need to speak the truth to power as best as I can. I need to stand with integrity and in my pursuit of integrity, I have absolutely no business pursuing popularity. I pursue integrity and I will stand for that. Thank you very much.

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