Monday, June 1, 2020

Botswana Police Service enjoys popular support

At least for now, the Botswana Police Service and their colleagues in the BDF seem to be at their best in ensuring compliance to the regulations governing the state of emergency declared two weeks ago by the President to deal effectively with corona virus pandemic. I was travelling from the Kgope farming areas at the weekend when I suddenly bumped into a road block on the Rasesa/Lentsweletau Road exactly a week after the state of emergency came into effect. No roadblock had ever been set at that particular Seleme lands before, so it was a surprise for me. I grew up in the area. There were ten or more police and BDF officers. From the look of things, it appeared they had been there for some days. As the vehicle slowed down, one unarmed police officer approached and extended greetings in a highly obedient manner. The questions he asked were “sir, where are you from and where are you heading to”? He paused for a response. The next question was “sir, may I see a permit entitling you to be on this road at this particular time?” I did not have one but explained that the permit requirement started when I was already in that farming area and there is no issuing authority in the area.

The inhabitants are pastoral farmers while others are engaged in subsistence agricultural pursuits. Secondly, I am a freelance journalist, I have been assessing the level of compliance to the regulations of the state of emergency among the rural folks and I am going to Mochudi to file my article to the newspaper. There are no internet facilities in the area I come from. I produced my identity cards and newspaper articles bearing my byline to proof my journalistic credentials. The headline in one article was “Corona virus may reach us” while the other one was “South African Lockdown good for Botswana.”  The officer was impressed to see that I had been writing articles about corona virus long before the state of emergency was declared. He then gave me the green light to proceed. Throughout our discussions, the rest of those manning the roadblock with him stood a distant away in groups of two or three but kept a watchful eye. They waved at me as I passed through the road block.Several people who had gone through that road block said they were surprised by the good reception they were given by the officers.

Some had expected a hostile reception since they did not have permits but to the contrary, everything went on smoothly. One driver who did not want to be quoted yet had a permit to visit his cattle post area said those “boys at the road block are good. They don’t harass people. They are soft and respectful. I don’t know if they have lie detector to determine if someone is not telling them the truth”, he said. Even in the streets of Mochudi, the police were visible but were not harassing people who appeared breaking the state of emergency regulations. They advised them accordingly while at the same time not compromising their duty. They applied legal measures against hard core ditlhakanatlhogo. Elsewhere the behavior of the police was equally the same. When I drove to Bokamoso Hospital, I encountered three roadblocks along the A-1 Road, along Paul Rantao Road and the other along the Mogoditshane/Molepolole road. To their credit, the officers addressed most of us as bagolo ba me and requested to see if motorists had permits.The performance of the Botswana Police during this state of emergency period, reconciles perfectly well with the findings of the World International Security and Police Index which have rated the Botswana Police Service as the best in Africa and the seventh best in the world. The ratings were presented by an organization called Displore in the last half of last year. It found its way into my Whatsapp page on 17th November 2019.

At that time, I did not give it the attention it deserved because I did not take it serious. I regarded it as one of those fake video clips which often go viral on social media. It was only this week when the conduct of the police impressed people, not withstanding isolated cases of indiscipline elsewhere, that I revised it. There is the common saying that, “a rotten potato spoils the other”.  For me it is not always the case. The recent Lobatse case, in which police offers were alleged to have beaten up two people, is unfortunate and isolated incident. We are told it is being adequately addressed at an appropriate level. The rating by the World International Security and Police Index covered capacity, processes, legitimacy and outcomes. In the capacity domain, researchers looked at resources a nation dedicated to the internal security. For the processes domain, they looked as to whether the resources allocated to the police were used in an effective manner while the legitimacy domain is a measure as to whether the public views the police in a favorable manner.It was found during the survey that the Botswana Police Service is well resourced, well paid, highly effective and efficient. Researchers underscored the fact that Botswana is a model African country known for its democratic stability, strong economy and blessed with visionary leaders and that it keeps on getting things right and the world acknowledges the country’s strides. About corruption, the finding is that it is almost none existent. Countries making Africa’s top ten are Botswana, Rwanda, Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Ghana, South Africa and Morocco in that order.

If I were the commissioner of the Botswana Police Service or the Minister of Defense, Security and Justice, or even the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I would do all in my power to ensure that the Police Services maintain current standard and their number one position in Africa and that they move from position seven in the world to at least position five or four. This will be very good for the country in many ways.I now return to my story about the level of compliance to the state of emergency by the rural folks in the farming areas.  These are folks who do not have running water, folks who do not have toilet facilities, folks who no longer use the position of the sun to determine the time because most have cellular phones but enjoy indulging on bear drinking from sunrise to sunset if it is made available to them. More often than not, they travel 20 kilometres a day in search of alcoholic beverages or mabolara. They do not access newspaper messages. Most of them do not care much about current affairs. You will see them smoking dagga but you may never know the source of supply. The Senamane Dam, constructed by Makuka Regiment soon after the Anglo Boer War for the chief’s cattle is a meeting place as it is currently the only source of water for the area’s herd. During the first week of the state of emergency, it was clear that the social distancing message had reached many and the level of compliance was very good.

However, there were still a few who either the message did not reach them or it meant nothing to them as they could be seen squeezed on a two-wheeled very small donkey card unperturbed.David Ramphaleng and Bonkani Dube are the only ones among farm managers who are up to date with current affairs. Ramphaleng goes to bed at about midnight listening to the radio especially Motsweding FM or Duma FM. As for Dube, he is just superb. He asks questions which show that the man is well informed. During our interactions, he kept me busy wanting to know how true it was that corona virus was manufactured by China to counter the United States in their trade war and how the corona virus would impact on vulnerable societies and very poor economies of countries such as Zimbabwe. He was aware that US President Donald Trump has called the corona virus China virus because it started in China. However, Dube wonders as to how a country could manufacture the virus as a weapon against a foreign enemy and tests the very same weapon on its own people and also against its friends since the spread of the virus was not selective.But be what that may, corona virus is giving the world sleepless nights. Here at home, the government continues urging people to stay at home and maintain social distancing, wash hands with water and soap or use sanitizers. This is a plea which everybody should not find it difficult to carry out.

In some major villages such as Mochudi, the loud speaker van drives around spreading this important message. Perhaps it may be good if these rounds of trips are extended to the outside villages, in the farming areas where the messages do not reach the communities.OUR MOTTO: wash your hands with clean water and soap, keep social distancing and remain at home until further notice.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.