Mahalapye — Botswana Railways (BR) passenger trains patrons have allegedly been drinking faecal contaminated water since 2017.
Giving evidence at the ongoing BR public hearings in Mahalapye on January 20, BR health and safety inspector, Mr Jupiter Rathanyane said "the last time we tested our water sample at a laboratory, we had a problem of faecal contamination".
He said another test conducted in 2018 also showed faecal contamination but to date no action had been taken to address the situation.
This contamination, he said resulted from using the same hosepipes used to clean coaches to re-fill water tanks supplying passengers with drinking water.
Since the hosepipes were left lying around, he said, they easily got contaminated with water from broken toilet pipes in some coaches.
He said action that could have been taken was to clean the water tank, refill it and take another sample for testing.
Mr Rathanyane said he wrote to his superior requesting further testing.
"It was not possible, to the extent that I even prepared something for contract basis, so that we could contract the company which normally tests our water, " he said.
He said contamination was possible with the current passenger coaches because the water tanks did not have "anywhere where one can open and spill the water, so that the tank can be completely flushed".
Responding to questions on availability of safety equipment in passenger trains, Mr Rathanyane confirmed that on the day of the train accident, the subject of the public hearings, there were no first aid boxes inside BR passenger train 0501.
The train derailed between Pallaroad and Bonwapitse River on December 10 killing two BR employees.
Mr Rathanyane said the last time he saw first aid boxes and fire extinguishers in the passenger trains was before August 2019 adding that three months later the fire extinguishers had expired.
He said it was the responsibility of the BR clinic nurse to ensure there were first aid boxes in the train explaining that his role was to check if they were there and still good for use.
Mr Rathanyane said in Mahalapye where he was stationed, he randomly got inside passenger coaches to check and ensure there were first aid boxes and whether fire extinguishers were still working before trains departed.
However, he said at other stations such as Lobatse, Gaborone and Francistown, "we rely mostly on SHE representatives to ensure that the safety equipment is available in the train".
"Unfortunately, there are no BR Health and Safety Officers in Gaborone and Francistown and it has been that way for years. Some years back, we used to have one in Gaborone, who was responsible for the southern region and another one was in Francistown," he said..
In her testimony, BR safety, health, environment and quality officer, Ms Refilwe Sebolai confirmed that there were no first aid boxes in BR passenger train 0501 on the day of the accident, while the fire extinguishers had expired.
She also said she was aware that water in the passenger train coaches was contaminated, saying this was due to cross-contamination as the same hosepipes used to clean toilets in the coaches were used to re-fill the water tanks.
Source : BOPA