The current standoff between the Gaborone City Council and food vendors was inevitable. I wish to argue that Gaborone City Councilors are to blame. Without a properly thought-out strategy that addresses the needs of vendors, they were left with no option but to improvise and play politics in order to survive the harsh realities of life.
It is interesting that in a BNF-led council, a BNF councilor, Lemme Kgopa, plays to the gallery and wants to score political points by shifting the blame to staff; this is irresponsible, populist and amateurish. Trying to profit from the misfortune of the voters in this manner is disingenuous.
According to 1999/2000 Informal Sector Survey, informal sector contributes 298 million pula to the GDP. This is the money the Finance Minister allocates each year in April. That notwithstanding, the sector continues to get a raw deal from government.
Flee market is a common feature in the developed and developing economies.
These markets should be integrated into the mainstream economies rather than treating vendors as outcasts and then playing saint in order to win their votes. A holistic solution should be sort with various stakeholders contributing towards the solution. One way is to solicit the services of engineers and architects to design appropriate structures in strategic places to accommodate vendors or the council to construct appropriate places where they will cook their food; meanwhile they should be allowed to trade pending a lasting solution. Their business is reliant on the food flow and eavesdrops of the big businesses that should also assist in finding the solution.
The BDP-led government refuses or marks time on giving the councils greater autonomy, thus aggravating the situation. When central government still appoints staff and allocates development budget for the administration of councils, it will be difficult to account for the (mis)deeds that occur at councils as the political leadership is merely ceremonial and, therefore, incidents such as Daisy Loo and the food vending issue will continue to go unaccounted for. Councils are competent to raise their funds through various means and how they do that will be subjected to voter scrutiny. It is untenable to have unaccountable central government and powerless councils as is currently the case. This anomaly lies at the intersection of the intransigent ruling party and a derelict main opposition.