This is in response to the article submitted by the Principal Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, Mr. Christopher Nyanga, that appeared in your edition of 27 May ÔÇô 2 June. While his intentions were to set the record straight, Mr Nyanga has left out some critical issues regarding the construction of the facility in Pilikwe. In the end his article has done more harm than good.
Mr Nyanga claims that they are in full compliance with international practice when selecting the site but what boggles everyone’s mind is that they have never come out clearly to explain why Pilikwe was identified as a suitable site. He further alleges that the Environment Impact Assessment came to the conclusion that the area was strategically located but still fails to mention how strategic it and for what is Pilikwe strategic for. These are some of the questions that still needs to be answered to the satisfaction of those who are concerned. Some lame and lousy reasons have been given before about Pilikwe being on the centre or in central. Some reasons went further to suggest that it is because of Pilikwe’s proximity to the new university in Palapye (BIUST) and the Martin’s Drift border.
This kind of reasoning is very disappointing to say the least. Pilikwe is not the closest village to BIUST nor is it the closest to the border. Pilikwe is not the most central place in Botswana. If this was so much about Pilikwe being the centre, why was BIUST built in Palapye and not Pilikwe? Why did the glass project go to Palapye and not Pilikwe? The reasons advanced were that Palapye is the most central , now all of a sudden Pilikwe is the most central when it comes to the “dumping site”. As a matter of fact, if BIUST was such a critical factor in the location of this facility, why is not built right within BUIST as they have a massive piece of land or built in Palapye. Mr Nyanga has mentioned that the waste will be temporarily stored in this facility before it is sent back to where they came from. Pilikwe as a village does not have any association with this radioactive waste materials, we are informed that they are mainly used in hospitals and mines.
There are no mines nor are there any hospitals in Pilikwe. The question then is, why should these material be stored in Pilikwe after other people have benefited from them in the various localities where they were used?
Mr Nyanga further claims that they have made numerous consultation visits to the Pilikwe Kgotla. While this may be true, he should be honest and not mislead the nation. In their consultation, it is true that there are people who initially agreed to this project out of ignorance. It is the same ministry that did not make those people understand the other side of the project, what could go wrong? We are all very much aware of stories when some students in the past would go to their parents and tell them that they have broken photosynthesis at school and they have to pay. The poor parents not knowing what photosynthesis is, would give their kids money. This is the same case of going to Pilikwe and telling elders about radioactive facility and telling them that this will create jobs, while we know this is not true. Let us not consult for the purposes of ticking a box Mr Nyanga, let us do it for the genuine reasons and giving out all the necessary information. The last meeting that Mr Nyanga is referring to, of 30 March was called a day before using a loud speaker. Do you honestly call that proper consultation Mr Nyanga? Do you need to be reminded that at that same meeting the elders of the village turned you back because of insufficient notice given?
This is a matter that is important to all residents of Pilikwe and not only those who are currently in the village. While you are proudly talking of the Kgotla as the forum that you used to consult, we all know that in this age we cannot just rely on the Kgotla for the same and say we have adequately consulted. The EIA report that you say is placed at the Kgotla for all to see, is that the best that you can do? Do you honestly expect people in Pilikwe to fully comprehend what is contained in that report or have you also placed a translated version of the report. The same Kgotla that you are conceitedly talking of, uses Setswana as a language of communication and yet you go and place a document that is written in the kind of English that even a university graduate find it difficult to comprehend and you still call that consultation and best practice? Is this about ticking the box?
Let me also reminde Mr Nyanga that the task force which he claims is not recognised as an official representative of the people of Pilikwe is as a matter of fact an elected structure by the residents. He should get his facts right. Even if this structure was not officially elected, I believe Mr Nyanga is aware that any member of the community from Pilikwe and the environs can object and should be given audience. The same elders have acknowledged that this issue needs people who understand it better and the task force in constantly in communication with elders in the village. Bagolo ba Pilikwe ba na le bana baba ba tshepahang. Please desist from sowing seeds of mistrust as this has a potential of dividing our calm and united village.
While you would like to assure the residents of Pilikwe and Batswana that the proposed radiation facility is meant for the good of the country, I wish to remind you that when the Serowe Sports Complex was built, it was for the good of the country. When the national stadium was closed for renovations two years ago, it was for the good of the country. When the Lobatse stadium was constructed, it was for the good of the country. Let me further remind you Mr Nyanga that when Shakawe Senior School was built, it was for the good of the country. As a ministry that is responsible for the above, i need not explain to you what has gone wrong with all these projects. Now you know where the fears of the residents and other concerned Batswana are coming from.
It is not yet too late to go back to the drawing board and correct what you did wrong. That is the most honourable and honest thing to do. Please take us through the thought process, how did you end up in Pilikwe and what other places were up for consideration and why were they disqualified. As it is now, it seems like one government official just placed a map in front of him, closed his eyes and decided that whichever village his finger will be on when he opens his eyes will be the one. We can’t continue to operate like this as a country. Your job Mr Nyanga is to give accurate information to Batswana NOT to mislead.