Sunday, June 16, 2024

Kgatleng District Council should be called to order

This past week, the government owned Botswana Daily News ran a front page story that the Kgatleng District Council prohibits the sale of condoms by bars and other alcohol outlets.

The decision by the Kgatleng District Council to prohibit the sale of condoms in the bars should come as a real disappointment to the thousands of Batswana who have spent years educating others on safe sex.

It is an example of just how far we still have to go as a people before the message sinks through and makes sense that we are in the middle of a war and that, as a nation, we continue to face annihilation from the spectre of HIV/AIDS and its associate ills.

The decision by the Council has left us wondering that if an important institution such as a District Council could take such a destructive decision that effectively undermines as to undo what has, for the last 15 years or so, been a linchpin of our public policy, then what really have we achieved during those years?

Over a sustained period of time, the Botswana Government, with the assistance of international partners, spent billions of Pula teaching people about the importance of condoms in safe sex.

We had come to a stage where we thought a national consensus existed to the effect that condoms had to be availed at whatever platform existed. And now this!

The Government Policy, while coordinated from the Central Government by the Office of the President, was very effectively decentralised to implementing partners many of which are housed at a local level.
In other jurisdictions, the decision by the Council is tantamount to a crime against humanity.

It shall never be known exactly how many lives have been put into direct danger by this inexplicable decision by the Kgatleng District Council.

What is important though is that as a nation we have to go back to the drawing table and start, afresh, a serious campaign which will teach our authorities, especially at local government level, who seem to be still lagging behind, the ravages of HIV/AIDS.
In that new educational campaign, we should also teach our authorities the importance and effectiveness of accessibility to condoms.

The Kgatleng District Council has left us with no option but to suggest that we go back to the basics.

May be we are mistaken. And as such we call on the National Aids Coordinating Agency (NACA) to release a public statement on this particular case.
As we all know, condoms in Botswana are available for free in almost every public facility.

How then can it be a crime to sell condoms anywhere?

We have, in the past, decided the fact that for many people HIV/AIDS has become not only a source of income, but also an industry that people have turned out to dubiously make fortunes.
It has not passed our attention that while in the past it was the foreigners who descended on Botswana to make a quick buck out of national plight; many other Batswana have also since joined.
The biggest irony, it now turns out, is that such a mentality is supported by some government institutions such as the Kgatleng District Council.

There is no mistaking the basic fact that the District’s ill-advised and totally unfortunate decision is premised on the understanding that sale of condoms is an exclusive undertaking for a few select vendors.

To the council, it does not matter that the more accessible the condoms are, the better.

We hope that bars are not singled out just because the present Government has been so explicitly negative in its interactions with the alcohol industry.
The incidents at Kgatleng are appalling and we call on the higher authorities to take stern action against both the Council Chairman and the Council Secretary.

These two officials cannot be allowed to get away scot-free, regardless of how powerful they are or how connected to the anti-alcohol lobby they could be.


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