Thursday, October 28, 2021

MP proposes personalised licence plates for Botswana motorists

In her youth, United States singer, Toni Braxton, could, on any day, have won Miss Universe without any make-up on and saw no reason to be modest about. “2 Cute”, read the licence plates on her car. At this time when BCL Ltd mine in Selebi Phikwe has closed down and the country is not as awash with cash as it used to be, an MP wants the government to let Batswana publicly flatter their vanity for a fee. In the precise language of his motion, the Boteti East MP, Sethomo Lelatisitswe, wants parliament to request the government “to introduce personalised car registration number plates as a means to increase government revenue.” There would still be the option of using standard government series plates but those who feel that they want to tell the world something about themselves would not have to use such series. If the motion gains passage and presidential assent and is implemented, Botswana will become the second SADC country (after South Africa) to allow what Americans rightly call vanity licence plates. Vanity appears to be the major motivation for having such plates. Experience from elsewhere suggests that some use these plates to indulge various forms of pathology – public indecency included, while circumventing public indecency laws. These are just a few examples from the US: “OMG WTF”, “I AM LATE”, “MS POO”, “RU18YET” and “A55HOLE.” Still on cars, Lelatisitswe would like to see constituency offices being provided with cars ÔÇô not standard government vehicles that typically don’t turn heads but “executive-type government vehicles” with a commercial driver. At this point in time, constituency offices, which fall under the National Assembly, are not provided with official vehicles. Instead, MPs have to use their personal vehicles to tour their constituencies. That may be not be a tall order for urban constituencies like those in Gaborone but is for rural ones like Okavango and Gantsi which have bad roads and unforgiving terrain. For now at least, Lelatisitswe has not proposed vanity licence plates for those cars but if the rationale for chauffeured, executive-type government vehicles is to visually elevate the status of MPs, such plates would also come in handy. MPs can supposedly afford dark sunglasses on their salary but if that is not the case, Liakat Kablay, the Letlhakeng-Lephepe MP, has already called for more pay for legislators. So: chauffeured, executive-type government vehicle rolls up at the kgotla and in the back seat is an MP wearing dark shades. Lelatisitswe’s motion says that providing constituency offices with an executive-type government vehicle and driver would be helpful in “extending parliamentary services to the nation.”

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