It has been a long time coming but the national alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre will finally be built in Serowe at the old Sekgoma Memorial Hospital.
This revelation was made by the Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness, Phillip Makgalemele on the floor of parliament.
“We are at the design stage where we are obviously converting that building previously used as a hospital into a rehabilitation centre,” the minister said.
The rehabilitation centre is almost a decade late because President Ian Khama promised the nation one when he established the alcohol levy. The centre was to be built with money from the levy which runs into billions of pula. However, rather than be spent on the most relevant and pressing need, the money has gone to developmental needs that are completely unrelated to the rehabilitation of alcohol and drug users. Makgalemele told the house that at some point in the recent past, his ministry engaged a consultant to develop a framework to guide the implementation of rehabilitation centres. However, the consultant “has been unable” to do the job satisfactorily.
“In the meantime, my ministry has gone ahead and has identified a suitable site which will be developed into a comprehensive rehabilitation centre. Rehabilitation centres still form part of the priority for government. Clients with alcohol and substance abuse disorders are managed through a referral system, which includes non-government organisations and government health facilities,” he said.
Despite the minister’s pronouncements, it has become clear that the government’s strategy on this issue is self-contradictory. While the intervention that Makgalemele outlined in parliament clearly show that on one level, alcohol and substance abuse is viewed as a public health problem that should be combatted scientifically, the Office of the President (which means President Khama) sees it as irresponsible behaviour that should be punished severely. In his 2016 state-of-the-nation address, Khama spoke about alcohol and substance abusers as inflicting harm upon themselves. That sentiment has now evolved into a controversial policy through which the government will withdraw this group of people from the government’s medical coverage.
The location of the rehabilitation centre will certainly raise heckles among those who feel that one too many national development projects are being in concentrated in the Serowe/Palapye area ÔÇô which is where three of Botswana’s four presidents originate. Consultants had recommended that the Botswana International University of Science and Technology be built in Selebi Phikwe but cabinet changed the location to Palapye. This happened at a time that the president was Festus Mogae and his vice president was Khama. Both men are from Serowe. The Sekgoma Memorial Hospital is named after Khama’s grandfather.