Friday, April 19, 2024

Khama’s Tswapong sojourn

We have always known that of all the state media apparatus the Botswana Television (Btv) is leading when it comes to spreading state propaganda without shame. In the past the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and public sector unions have complained about its conduct. The 2009 general elections were declared by most observers as free but lagging in fairness. Btv contributed in no small measure to this bad description of our democracy.

Btv is heavily censored to exclude information that put government and the ruling party in a bad light. The live interactions of President Ian Khama and the public at Kgotla meetings around the country are worst affected by censorship. His recent encounter with a certain Samora Motlhagodi of Pilane village in Kgatleng has made the situation worse.

The Kgotla meetings are frequently used by the President and his Ministers to bash and attack the opposition parties and whoever is critical of government failed programs. Machaneng, Moshopha and Ramokgonami residents in Tswapong South are the latest victims of such abuse and misinformation meant to portray the opposition parties and critics of government as irresponsible and unpatriotic. The case in Machaneng was most revealing.

On Thursday August 9th 2012 the President accompanied by Minister Lebonamang Mokalake and Botlhogile Tshireletso visited Machaneng village, Moshopha and Ramokgonami. As is the case at such meetings there was no clear agenda except for the distribution of blankets rejects from Chinese warehouses. The Machaneng story was carried on Saturday August 11th 2012 Btv evening news. Unfortunately what Btv reported and what actually transpired were world apart.

In its selective coverage Khama was shown attacking some politicians, whom he did not name for misleading homeowners who benefited from the Habitat for Humanity Botswana (HFHB) (described by some as Habitat for Misery Botswana ÔÇô HFMB) and Self Help Housing Agency (SHHA) schemes. He accused them of inciting people to default on their loan repayments. Speaking like a commission agent for Habitat President Khama insisted that the victims of Habitat fraudulent scheme must pay as per their contractual agreements with the NGO.

For the information of President Khama there is no SHHA scheme to talk about in Tswpong South. Besides the scheme targets low income people earning P300-P3000 per month and 99.9% of his audience did not even qualify for SHHA. It also excludes Ipelegeng laborers as they are engaged on a rotational basis. Whoever misled the President on such simple factual matters was mischievous to say the least. Unfortunately Khama is the most gullible President I have ever known and most people close to him take advantage of this weakness. Tautona o rate tshele le tontokwane!

What Btv deliberately failed to report is that during the Machaneng Kgotla meeting victims of Habitat were unimpressed by the responses they were getting from both the President and his Ministers on their burning grievances. Refusing to be intimidated the agitated homeowners insisted that their problem must be addressed without clouding it with political irrelevance which is what the President and his Ministers tried to do. Facing a barrage of questions and complaints around the Habitat issue the President retreated. Instead Minister Mokalake became the sacrificial lamb as he was publicly instructed to address the issue promptly. It had emerged during the exchanges that Mokalake had neglected his duty as Minister responsible for housing. He had failed to resolve the long standing dispute between Habitat and the aggrieved homeowners from Machaneng, Matlhako, Chadibe, Borotsi and Sefhare. It is worth noting that most of the affected people are poverty stricken women.

A visibly embarrassed Mokalake was forced to publicly make a commitment to meet the victims with a view to resolve the long standing dispute. The following day officials from his Ministry led by Mr. S. Mongati, the Private Secretary to Minister Mokalake met with homeowners to document their cases. Unfortunately too much secrecy often hides even the good things that government is trying to do for its people. As they say… Re tare ke dipitse re bone ka mebala ya tsone.

The dispute between Habitat and homeowners arose after the NGO lured poverty stricken individuals, mostly rural women into acquiring home loans at exorbitant interest rates hidden under what they termed “Cement Index.”

To my utter disappointment Assistant Minister Tshireletso who in the past had expressed serious concerns about the Habitat housing scheme was conspicuously silent. She betrayed the poor women of Tswpong South when they needed her voice most. There appears to be collusion between Habitat, President Khama and his government against the victims of Habitat.

I am saying this because President Khama is well aware that government through district councils has contracted Habitat to build turn-key houses for the poor in Serowe, Kweneng and Southern districts yet he finds it difficult to understand that there is something definitely wrong with Habitat luring poverty stricken women of Tswapong into some housing loan scheme at an interest rate higher than housing prime rate offered by local commercial banks. The least his government must do is to show compassion by clearing the outstanding loans under the turn-key program and free these people from poverty and humiliation.

Kesitegile Gobotswang, PhD


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