BDP shoots down enquiry on Matsha tragedy

Nicholas Mokwena
Tuesday, 24 November 2015
BDP shoots down enquiry on Matsha tragedy

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Members of Parliament have shot down a motion calling for an enquiry on why government breached its Policy, which is against the transportation of students using open trucks.

The motion was to be tabled on Tuesday this week by MP for Selibe-Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse, following a road accident last week involving a cattle truck that was ferrying 121 Matsha College students from Kang to the Kweneng District.

Seven students died in the accident.BDP allegedly caucused on Tuesday morning and anonymously agreed that the motion that was to be tabled as a matter of urgency should be rejected. The BDP MPs are said to have taken this decision as a measure to save face since the motion had the potential of causing damage to the government for failing to implement its Policy.

The motion reads, ‘that this House resolves that government should ensure that there is full compliance with the policy that prohibits transporting students in trucks and institutes an independent enquiry into the Matsha College students accident to establish why the policy was breached’. The BDP used its numbers in Parliament to defeat the motion with an overwhelming 31 MPs voting against it while 16 wanted the motion to be debated.

Speaking to Botswana Guardian outside Parliament, Government Whip Liakat Kably dismissed claims that at the caucus they agreed that they should vote against the motion. He said as principled MPs the BDP members know that it would be insensitive to deal with the motion while the nation is still in mourning. He stated that government is also carrying out investigations. “What the MP is asking for is what the government is doing. If we want government to be investigated, let us wait for the families to bury their loved ones, then we can take government to task. The council (Kweneng District) was supposed to have done as the Policy dictates but let us not deal with that at this time”, said Kably.

Opposition Whip Wynter Mmolotsi said government is playing hide and seek with regards to the Policy. “We asked the BDP to give us the Policy but until now there is nothing. The Presidential Affairs Minister Eric Molale said the Policy is there but we are not told if it is a written document or not. The BDP just do not want to be shown their mistakes. What is wrong with independent investigations? This issue will just die a natural death like the alleged bogus petition of Francistown West where they have been investigating since 2013,” charged Mmolotsi.

Keorapetse was disappointed with the decision by BDP MPs to reject the motion. He condemned the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Kagiso Molatlhegi for refusing him even the opportunity to table the motion. Keorapetse said there have been earlier attempts to kill the motion by the BDP before the start of Parliament. He said he received an email from a Parliament official indicating that the motion is not urgent and later received a call from Molatlhegi also stating that the motion is not urgent.

The legislator indicated that he was informed by some BDP MPs that at their Parliamentary caucus had discussed and resolved to reject the motion. He said that he has requested Molale and Government Spokesperson Jeff Ramsay to furnish him with the Policy but to no avail.

“While there is a policy, like most policies which are seldom implemented or actualised, the purported policy prohibiting transportation of pupils in open trucks has not been complied with. We ask the Minister in conjunction with the Department of Road Transport Services and the Botswana Police Service-Traffic Division, to enact a subsidiary or delegated legislation in the form of traffic rules to outlaw the transportation of school children in the back of open trucks to force compliance with the policy”. Keorapetse said he wanted Parliament to institute an independent enquiry into the Matsha College students’ accident to establish why the policy was breached.

He said he is aware that there is an ongoing police investigation. “However, there have been numerous accidents in which school children and teachers were killed and injured in accidents in which open trucks were used as  mode transport but especially post the purported policy.”

Molale on Monday told Parliament that the standing policy of Government is to transport students in buses. Molatlhegi could not be reached for comment.

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