Trans Kalahari Railway project still in limbo

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Mpho Tebele

 Gaborone - The multi-billion dollar joint venture Trans Kalahari Railway project between Botswana and Namibia faces an uncertain future as it teeters on the edge, it has emerged. 

 The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the railway project was signed between the two neighbouring states five years ago. The matter has now caught the attention of legislators who are now demanding answers from the relevant authorities.

Botswana Railways chief executive officer, Leonard Makwinja, recently found himself with his back against the wall as the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises demanded answers on the delay of the project.

 The multi-billion dollar railway line envisages to connect Botswana and Namibia from the western coast town of Walvis Bay. It was expected to be funded by the two countries at a cost of more than 100 billion pula.

Responding to one of the members of the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises and Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Reggie Reatile, Makwinja laid the blame at the door steps of the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

Makwinja said the ministry was failing to consult his entity despite the fact that the Botswana Railways signed the memorandum of understanding with TransNamib for the development of the 1, 500 km railway line.

 “Yes it is true that BR signed the memorandum of understanding with TransNamib to kick start the project but the Ministry of Transport is the most suitable body to give answers for this issue,” he said.

Another member of the committee, legislator Pius Mokgware, said there was a need for the ministry to appraise parliament on the project.

This is not the first time that authorities have expressed concern at the way the project is being handled.

Last year, this publication reported that Johny Smith, the chief executive officer of TransNamib, called on his Botswana counterpart to expedite the process of developing the Trans-Kalahari Railway. At the time, Smith, who was in Gaborone, expressed concern that Botswana seemed to lack commitment to the railway line project.

But Botswana insisted that the railway line would not be a white elephant as it was still committed to developing it.

Reports indicate that Botswana appears to have shifted its focus to a railway line project that is expected to link it with Zambia through the newly built Kazungula Bridge. Smith expressed concern that the construction of the TKR project was long overdue as it had been on the table for many years. He revealed that both the feasibility study and the planning stages had long been conducted and what “is needed is for engineers to be on the site”.

At the time, Makwinja, said there was no way the Botswana government would abandon the project because it had potential.  The project was expected to avail rail transport opportunities for Botswana mining activities to export their copper and coal through the Namibian railway line to the sea.

 

 

 

 

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