Sunday, July 12, 2020

Getting priorities of a constituency right is important

If you chose to call him honourable Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development he will answer. You may also choose to identify him by saying honourable Member of Parliament for Mochudi West, he will answer. Still you may choose to call him Morena, a Sekgatla equivalent of the title “prince” he will answer. Even if you prefer to say Kgosikgolo’s younger brother, you will still be referring to him. Or still you may refer to him as the Kgosikgolo’s last born, meaning Kgosi Linchwe II’s last born, you will still be referring to him. It does not end there. Even if you describe him as the sixth-in-line for the Bakgatla throne, you will not be wrong.

This is Mmusi Kgafela, the newly elected MP for Mochudi West. As he begins to familiarise himself with the constituency, he will find out that in fact, he has inherited a constituency with as many demands in terms of physical infrastructure as his titles. The situation that confronts the constituency depends to a larger extent, on financial muscle. Since it may not be that easy, the best way out of it, is getting the priorities right. The demands of this constituency include construction of a hospital, construction of a stadium and tribal offices. These projects are a few of major ones which have been on the waiting list for more than two decades. The constituency can no longer afford to wait indefinitely. If I were involved in the prioritisation task, I would start with construction of the hospital. The stadium would be next and the offices last. The more than 13,000 people who voted for Mmusi Kgafela want him to reciprocate by ensuring that these three major projects get off the ground now. No candidate has ever been voted in by such a large number in the constituency before. The highest ever recorded was in 2014 when Gilbert Mangole reached slightly more than 8,000. So the number has almost doubled. This means Mmusi Kgafela must double up his efforts as well.

Mochudi has no proper medical facility. I served as a member of the hospital advisory committee a few years ago. I know what people mean when they say the DRM Hospital in Mochudi is no longer a health facility it used to be. During the two years that I was in that committee, I toured all the various hospital wards. I saw dilapidated wards and I got the impression that it would perhaps better be utilised as a carpentry brigade entity, not as a health facility.

The outcome of the recent general elections is an indication that “there is still no alternative”. The Masisi administration should however be advised not to sit on their laurel. For the people of Mochudi, their last hope is the mid-term review of the Eleventh National Development Plan. Based on pronouncements by President Masisi during the election campaigns, it is almost certain that the construction of a hospital for the Bakgatla is going to be given top priority.

This means that Mochudi should not be caught napping at the end of the review. Their biggest contribution for this project is the availing of a plot. They have to play that part to the fullest. The fact that a plot has been found at Pilane along the road to Rasesa is in the public domain. The question is, is the plot earmarked for that project big enough to accommodate what pundits belief will or should be something as big as the Molepolole, Mahalapye or Serowe hospitals? This is where the community should not err because should they go wrong, a mood of melancholy will descend on them.

The plot allocated for this project measures 16 hectares unless there has been some changes following the end of my membership of the committee. The hospital had applied for 20 hectares. Somehow, without having seen and studied the plan that the government intends building for Mochudi, land board members of that time, settled for 16 hectares instead. The management at the hospital was unhappy with the decision of the land board.

Upon being approached with a request to reconsider their decision, land board members raised technical issues claiming that they made it impossible for the sketch plan to be altered, by removing other projects which are adjacent to the hospital plot. The area is also planned to play host to a bus rank and a secondary school. In its entity, the proposed new hospital includes nurses’ home and school of nursing. From the lay man’s point of view, a secondary school could be moved elsewhere to create more space for a hospital even for future development. To the ordinary man, squeezing a secondary school next to a bus rank seemed unwise, hence the suggestion that it be moved away to a quiet place. Similarly, a secondary school needs more space for future expansion.

It is not that the hospital management had an idea of the plan the government had for the hospital. They however, knew it was something to write home about and expected it to be the phase of Mochudi. They did not expect and rightly so, that having constructed imposing health facilities elsewhere, Mochudi would be given a miniature hospital.

During the Khama administration, government announced plans to build a stadium bigger than the National Stadium. At the time of the announcement, it seemed funds were already made available for the project. I have information from well-placed sources that Kgatleng, Tlokweng and Ramotswa were the candidates for that project. By the grace of God, Kgatleng has a very strong team in Parliament consisting of Dr Unity Dow, Mmusi Kgafela and Mabuse Pule. These are the people who don’t envy self-aggrandizement. They are not in parliament to start suggesting that Mochudi East should be Kgatleng East and that Mochudi West should be Kgatleng West as if we don’t have Serowe South, Serowe North, Kanye South and North which include their satellite villages. The trio know that the time to discuss the naming of constituencies will come when the delimitation commission has been has been set in motion. They know that the delimitation commission is procedurally preceded by the population census which gives direction on how the population has expanded. So we are not again going to be bored by hearing petty issues being raised in parliament.  Dr Dow is highly experienced in both law and politics. She could lead the team to lobby the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development with a view to building the proposed stadium in Kgatleng. I am informed that a plot for a stadium for Mochudi was allocated before the Khama administration came into being. I do not know where it is and how big it is. Personally, I am inclined to favour an area between Mmamashia and Morwa because of its easy accessibility both to the south and north of the country. As for the tribal offices, the project can wait.

There is a road that nobody ever talks about it and yet it economically viable. The only roads that get mentioned quite often are the Mochudi/Malotwana and the Modipane/Mabalane. The Rasesa/ Lentweletau road is the most unfortunate one.

The first time when it got some form of official attention was in 2004 when I lobbied Rakwadi Modipane who was the MP for Mochudi West at the time. His initial response was laughable. He was aware that I had farming interests between Rasesa and Lentsweletau and therefore, he accused me of conflict of interest. Modipane was an interesting fellow who proved to be dynamic. He allowed me space to show cause why I felt the road was economically important for Mochudi and why it was equally important for Lentsweletau. The first thing I did was admitting that I have farming interests along that road. However, I stressed that it was because of those farming interests that I had come to realise the importance of that road and that any benefit to me would be of secondary importance. Primarily, it would benefit the people of Lentsweletau, Kgope and Dikgatlhong in the Kweneng District who prefer facilities in Mochudi because of their proximity. Their nearest hospital is Mochudi, nearest mortuaries are at Pilane, nearest wholesalers are at Pilane and nearest hardware providers are also at Pilane. Similarly, I said the nearest border post from Lentsweletau to South Africa is Sikwane and that the nearest route from Mochudi to Ghanzi is through Lentsweletau.

Having addressed Modipane on those issues, the man was a changed one conceding that the road was indeed important. The interesting thing about that road was that at that time, a portion of it was tarred from Lentsweletau to Kgope. What was needed was to carry out where it had been left off. Why I say Modipane proved to be a dynamic leader is because when he was convinced about the importance of the road, he lobbied authorities in the Kweneng District to join forces with their counterparts in Kgatleng. They met the then Minister of Roads and Communications, Lesego Motsumi who supported the proposal.

As if God was always on our side, then the development of the Tshele Hill oil storage facility got off the ground. When it did so, another portion of the road was tarred. This is the portion between the oil facility and the A1 Road. What this means now is that we have a road which is tarred at its both ends leaving the middle of it gravelled.

During the Khama administration, this road came in the spotlight during his visit to Rasesa kgotla. The area chief representative, Rasesa included it in his welcome remarks. He appealed to Khama to use his powers to ensure the road was fully tarred. Speaking through the former District Commissioner, Same Samapipi, Khama said if there could be some funds left from the construction of the Tshele project, it would be used to complete the tarring of that road. People at the kgotla welcomed the response by clapping their hands. Well they had to clap their hands because most of them had never heard of something known as bureaucratic incompetence.  I had known Samapipi way back when both of us were stationed in Kanye. I knew her as an honest person who would not mislead people. She was one person who wanted to see things done. But even then, I considered the answer she gave a tricky one. Somebody other than her would use it to deprive the community an important project. For instance, if one wanted to divert the remaining funds somewhere, there was no way the community could know whether all the funds were indeed exhausted at the end of the Tshele project or not.

When Samapipi was transferred, I was worried. I knew her transfer would impact negatively the completion of that road. The people’s hopes were dashed. I spoke to her and she assured me that she would leave handing-over notes for the in-coming District Commissioner.  Since then, nothing has been heard of that road. Steven Linchwe who was an AP parliamentary candidate for Mochudi West in the recent general elections mentioned it in passing during their radio debate in October. The rest of the participants did not mention it. Perhaps it was not known to them. Linchwe appeared to know very little of it. He had not done his homework on the road at all.

With stories that P250 million from the National Petroleum Fund has been diverted to the DIS to purchase security hardware from Israel making headlines in local newspapers, it is reasonable to conclude that those were the funds which should have gone to the Rasesa/Lentsweletau road construction.  So in a way, Mochudi has been hit directly by the looters of the petroleum fund.


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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.