Sunday, April 2, 2023

Botswana lacks a lot more than water and power

Talk of shortage nowadays is confined to water and power but there is a theme of dire need that runs through a number of first-batch parliamentary questions in the last and this coming week.


Kanye South MP, Abram Kesupile, frets that students at Mogale Junior Secondary School in Maokane village are not eating enough. He wanted the Minister of Education and Skills Development, Unity Dow, to state “what she will do to ensure that children are adequately fed (go ja go kgora).” The Setswana phrase hints at distended-stomach satiation that is common around the harvest season when fresh produce is abundant and gluttony in vogue. The phrase seemed intended to establish common cultural ground with the minister on what kind of adequate feeding that the MP had in mind. In Boteti West, there may not be enough grain pounders and the question from area MP, Sethomo Lelatisitwe suggests that not enough grain is pounded into flour which is then cooked as soft porridge for pupils. He wanted to find out “when the number of pounders (basiti/bathugi ba mabele) will be increased in all schools.” Another question by Kesupile suggests a situation in which there may not even be enough grain to pound because of shortage of ploughing fields. The MP said that in Lehoko and Seherelela villages, residents “are concerned over the Land Board’s failure to allocate them residential plots and ploughing fields.”


However, even in a hypothetically ideal situation where such fields have been allocated and are being cultivated, the ability of agricultural scientific officers to render advice to farmers may be compromised by their own needs. Lelatisitswe asked the Minister of Agriculture “if he is aware that the Agricultural Scientific officer (Molemisi) in Mosu uses the house that he/she resides in as an office and that the house is not electrified even though the village is covered by the power grid.” Then again that molemisi should count himself lucky compared to civil servants in Mmadinare and Sefhophe. A question from the constituency MP, Kefentse Mzwinila, alerted the Minister of Health to the fact that “there are 156 officers at Mmadinare Primary Hospital but only 36 staff houses” and that there is no staff housing for the doctor at Sefhophe Clinic. The Mmadinare Hospital has gone for months without an eye nurse, nurse midwife, psychiatric nurse, drivers, principal administration officer, revenue collector and radiographer.


In a sparsely populated country with an area of 581 000 square kilometres, Mookami Junior Secondary School in Kanye “does not have suitable grounds for the teaching and coaching of Physical Education, sports and athletics” according to Kesupile. He added that “the present ground is on a slope and is heavy with rocks which makes it impossible to maintain it.” As baffling is the Gaborone North situation where there is no water infrastructure to complement the sewerage infrastructure in the Gaborone North farms. Area MP, Haskins Nkaigwa, asked the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources “to state the rationale” behind this situation.


In his annual state-of-the-nation address, President Dr. Ian Khama mentioned acute water and power shortage and revealed plans to deal with the situation. At least in as far as this speech went, there are no plans to deal with challenges relating to go ja go kgora, pounders, ploughing fields, unelectrified house-offices, training grounds and water infrastructure. However, that situation doesn’t alter the fact that crisis-level shortage of resources in Botswana is woefully under-reported.


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