While it had promised to ensure that its fieldworkers are “catered for” with sanitational facilities during the lockdown, the Gaborone City Council (GCC) has yet to make good on that promise.
GCC, as indeed all other local governments in Botswana, has an unusual problem that has been allowed to go unresolved for decades. Its fieldworkers in the Departments of Environmental Health, Parks and Recreation, Roads and Electrical Engineering don’t bring along portable toilets when they leave their offices in the morning. The result is that when nature calls, they ask to use the toilet in the nearest house in the areas that they would be working in.
These employees have formally complained to GCC management over the years about this situation but their concerns were never addressed. One such complaint was tabled as an action item at a Local Works Committee meeting but the intervention that the employees sought (that they be provided with portable toilets) was never effected. However, the coronavirus situation presents a new challenge. With the disease spreading like wildfire around the world, residents are no longer willing to allow GCC fieldworkers inside their houses and use their toilets.
“They say they don’t want to catch corona,” a source says of the jittery residents.
A day before the national 28-day lockdown began, Mayor Father Maphongo, who wasn’t aware of this situation, said that the Council would ensure that this group of employees (who are considered essential) would be catered for during the lockdown. While Ipelegeng garbage collectors are staying at home during the lockdown, work gangs from Parks and Recreation, Roads and Electrical Engineering are still working because there is no way that a town of some 260 000 people can do without their services – collection of garbage, fixing of roads, watering of trees and fixing of streetlights.
However, the catering that the mayor spoke of has yet to happen and his explanation is that the Council’s attention was diverted to the COVID-19 food relief programme that is being administered through councils. That notwithstanding, he adds that catering for the sanitational needs of fieldworkers remains a priority.