Monday, September 21, 2020

Council Disease blights Gaborone X-mas spirit

Had the Gaborone City Council implemented Councillor Odirile Motlhale’s motion, city streets would, at year end, be festooned with Christmas decorations.

Motlhale says that the only decoration that is ever seen on Gaborone streets is national-colours bunting that is hung on street lights during national celebrations like Independence Day and when foreign heads of state visit.

“That has been done since I was a Standard One pupil. Cities like Mafeking and Bulawayo are decorated around Christmas time in order to create a festive mood. Gaborone should also look bright and merry during the festive season,” the specially elected councillor says.

The city council carried Motlhale’s motion but to date has yet to make Gaborone take on the accessorised look of Mafeking and Bulawayo around Christmas time.

Lack of Christmas decorations may not seem a big deal but it does for the reason that the non-implementation of what the city council recommended points to a bigger problem in not just the city council but all other local government authorities.

At different times during this electoral term, the GCC has approved motions to construct overhead bridges for pedestrians in all major city roads, open some clinics for 24 hours, and erect traffic lights at roundabouts.

Boseja/Flowertown (Mahalapye) ward councillor, Bonnie Kenosi, knows of projects in the Central District Council that, while approved by the council, were never implemented.

“One of the impediments cited is lack of finance. That occurs against a situation when there is a backlog of development projects not yet undertaken,” Kenosi says.

Mmopane councilor, Phagenyane Phage, describes the non-implementation of motions as the “disease of all councils”.
In his first term as Kweneng District councillor (1994 ÔÇô 1999), Phage sponsored a motion to have the council build Mogoditshane’s own sub-district council offices.

“That was in 1996. Up to now those offices have not yet been built,” Phage says.

Elsewhere, it would be a different story. If a motion is approved or an assurance made in Parliament, nothing is left to the will of God regarding its implementation. That does not mean that such assurances and motions are always implemented on time because, by its nature, the government is a slow-grinding machine. Parliament has the Committee on Subsidiary Legislation, Government Assurances and Motions Passed by the National Assembly whose main function is to monitor the implementation of motions and government assurances. This committee also has subpoena powers.

It is perhaps the lack of such legislation that has resulted in former Gaborone mayor, Nelson Ramaotwana, pecking at the heels of the town clerk, Kutlwano Matenge. Some of the street hawker trade on city streets is unlawful but in past sittings, the GCC was given an assurance that hawkers should be given breathing space while present legislation is knocked into shape to make room for them.

In terms of the parliamentary system, it would not be easy to reverse such resolution without going back to the floor of the house. In the local government system, it is easy to do so because city, town and district councils do not have a structure similar to the Government Assurances Committee of the National Assembly.

Motlhale says that the absence of such structure has severely degraded the ability of the city council to deliver to the electorate.

About four months ago, he asked the secretariat through a motion, to provide a list of all motions that have been approved in the current electoral term. The information has yet to be provided. Oftentimes, Motlhale says, councillors table motions completely oblivious of the fact that such motions were tabled in the past, approved but not acted upon.

He suggests that the absence of the equivalent of Parliament’s assurance committee means that at one level council meetings are not unlike lazy-day social get-togethers where friends meet to just sit around, chat, drink tea and munch oven-baked bread – all at taxpayers’ expense.

“We should do more than just chat,” Motlhale says.
Phage says as much, adding: “I often say that there is no need to have local government authorities because, at the level of project implementation, they are useless.”

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