Why does Gaborone stink as much as it does especially in the evenings? The answer is very long but can be summarized in just three words: water sector reforms.
In order to streamline a “cumbersome arrangement” in which Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) supplied urban areas with water while the Department of Water Affairs and district councils supplied rural areas, the government decided to restructure the water sector by establishing one water authority in WUC. Part of the restructuring entailed WUC taking over all water and wastewater service delivery in the country. Around the time that this process was ongoing, the Department of Water Affairs in the then Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources raised a very pertinent issue in a question-and-answer explanation of this restructuring on its website. Q: Does the WUC have the human resource capacity to take over water service delivery to the whole country? A: The Corporation will take over some employees from the Department of Water Affairs and District Councils who have been working in the areas to be taken over. In the event that the Corporation does not manage to fill all positions, it will recruit within WUC and eventually from the open market.
In the particular case of Gaborone, at this time, wastewater service delivery was the responsibility of the Gaborone City Council (GCC) and discharged through sewerage attendants. The Council was not doing an outstanding job because rivers of effluent that erupted across town took a really long time to stanch. Then at least, an overflow problem would not last for years.
After the transfer of this function to WUC, something that is highly unusual is happening. WUC ÔÇô which has not been in good financial shape for some time now ÔÇô could not absorb all sewerage attendants and the result can be smelled every day in a city that has ambitions of becoming a prime tourist destination in the region. Successive mayors have spoken about the city’s tourism potential but the case for such is difficult to make when places of interest (like shopping malls) are not spared of this stench.
Unfortunately for GCC, most people still point a finger of blame at it when that finger should be pointing at WUC which in terms of the water sector reforms, is now responsible for wastewater.