On the 10th December 2019 we learnt of the unfortunate derailment of the passenger train on bound to Francistown. The reports confirmed that two Botswana Railways employees, a trainman(assistant Driver) & a permanent Way Inspector, lost their lives in the accident and two others, a trainee locomotive driver and her accompanying instructor also travelling in the locomotive have been admitted in hospital. Fortunately there were no fatalities amongst the estimated 400 passengers in the coaches though passengers sustained injuries to varying degrees. Botswana Federation of Trade Unions leadership and all its affiliates would like to convey our heartfelt condolences to our affiliate Botswana Transport and General Workers Union, Botswana Railways staff and to the families of the deceased during this difficult period. We share your loss and pray that God gives you the strength and courage as you mourn your loved ones. We also wish the injured employees a speedy recovery. Workers safety is of paramount importance in the world of work and we condemn work related deaths in the strictest sense. We are aware that Botswana Railways has a safety policy that seeks to promote health and safety issues and ensures compliance with the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR Act) requirements and all other legislations affecting the health, safety and wellbeing of its staff, the public and the environment. The key objective of the Railway Safety Regulator Act is to establish a Railway Safety Regulator, independent from the railway industry, which has appropriate legislative power, enforcement capability and human resource capacity to oversee railway safety. The Railway Safety Regulator has the power to enforce and improve the level of operational safety.
We have also noted that locomotive accidents have been too frequent over the past three years and it is important for the reports of the accidents to be thoroughly analyzed and interventions implemented to ensure that future occurrences are averted. Botswana Transport and General Workers Union (BTGWU) has also indicated that their warnings during Management- Unions meetings, the latest as recent as 05th December 2019, have gone unheeded by Management. This is further evidence of the deterioration of a safety culture that has 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 for the losses and damages to the rail line, locomotive and coaches. We demand that the Minister of Transport and Communication must ensure that necessary actions are taken against Management in this regard. We also call on the Minister to call upon the regulator to investigate the accident and issue a report to the nation. The report will shed more light on the status of the BR because frequent accidents dent the image of our rail transportation and will likely 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 workplaces by implementing proper safety standards. Risk assessments must be carried out in all workplaces and action plans for preventive measures drawn and followed. We also call on the Government of Botswana to improve labour inspections as well as ratify and domesticate safety and health conventions.
Thusang Butale Secretary General