Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Parliamentary village falling apart

A contractor engaged to clean the Parliamentary Village swimming pools absconded three months ago.

The result is that the pools have turned into ponds and are so heavily contaminated with bacteria that a really good physicist should be able to extract nuclear-bomb-making material from the dirty stagnant water and debris strewn on the surface.

According to Morwalela Kesalopa, the Principal Public Relations Officer of the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services, the pools were last cleaned in December last year.

“The cleaning has lagged behind schedule because the contractor who was contracted to carry out maintenance services of the swimming pools has since absconded. The department is in the process of terminating his contract and finding a replacement,” Kesalopa says.

DBES is responsible for pool maintenance activities, which include checking all the associated plant and pumps motors to ensure that they are functioning properly.

There also seems to be confusion as to who is supposed to do what. Kesalopa says that activities such as vacuuming, sweeping, backwash, draining, emptying and cleaning the chemical make-up tank are not their responsibility.

“[They] have been construed as maintenance when in actual fact these are operations undertaken to ensure that the water in the pool remains hygienic for the pool users. Like in any home with a swimming pool, this is an activity which the caretaker should take care of,” she says.

The chairperson of the House Committee, Botsalo Ntuane, says that the pools are swimming pools that have become symptomatic of the general structural decay of the Parliamentary Village.
“There is not an MP who has not complained about the state of their flat,” says the MP, adding that the dirty pools would naturally become an issue because they are in the public eye. “But the whole Parliamentary Village is derelict.”

According to the Standing Orders, the main function of Ntuane’s committee is to consider “all matters connected with the comfort and convenience of members in the performance of their duties”. It advises the Speaker on matters connected with the management and general administration of members’ flats, parliament house, production of the Hansard, members lounge and bar as well as the parliament library.

Ntuane says that at the time they were properly maintained, the pools were used fully by MPs’ visitors and children, especially on weekends. That has now become impossible because since turning into thermal reactors and collecting more and more fissile material, they present a serious health hazard not just for MPs but the neighbourhood as well. Abandoned pools are a breeding ground for mosquitoes and different kinds of diseases.

The Parliamentary Village is a high-walled, double-winged residential complex in an exclusive address in Gaborone where MPs are housed free of charge for their entire term of office. The pools are in the eastern wing.
In a related pool matter, the reflecting pool at the National Assembly has been empty since January this year. Kesalopa says that it was emptied because of a water seepage problem.

“It will be refilled once the seepage problem has been attended to as soon as the department has secured funds to do so,” she says.

Commonly built around landmarks, reflecting pools are meant to inspire solemnity and reflection. A design with edges being slightly deeper than the centre of the pool is often used to suppress wave formation.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.