Thursday, May 23, 2024

We are being sold a dummy

That Botswana has markedly shifted from what it used to be is not a matter of debate. We are a changed people. Sadly, as latest events suggest, we have changed in a bad way. Rather than being an exemplary case of good governance and democracy in the continent and beyond, the modern Botswana is a shadow of its former glory. Nothing, and I mean nothing, seems to be working for us. I write this instalment with a heavy heart. Yes, I had to throw away everything in my fridge because of the dreaded power cuts! The better parts of Kgale View, Block 9 and Phase 4 were literally turned into darkness since early morning of Saturday. Initially, I thought something was wrong with our house until I realised that the whole neighbourhood was in the dark. We only managed to get connected late yesterday. And to make matters worse the power cuts cropped up in the middle of the worst heat wave we have had in the month of February. Now you can understand why I am boiling. I am angry because things cannot be allowed to go on as if we are not affected anyhow. It cannot be business as usual.

Because of anger I am finding it challenging to be coherent in my presentation today. But I will find my voice despite such difficulties. Maybe I am afraid power might be interrupted before I conclude this piece. Let’s hope things will be fine. In this instalment I reflect on latest developments that have occupied many Batswana. Yes, I know there have been a plethora of issues, some with potential to reverse gains made over the course time, but I just want to limit the discussion to what I consider elements speaking to the confused nature of our political leadership. Honestly, it has been a worrying times considering decisions coming from the higher office in the land. In particular I reflect on the proposed sale of Morupule B to the Chinese constructor and the latest spat between Beijing and Gaborone.

Let me start with the proposed sale of Morupule B. I was not shocked when it was announced. It was always coming. It therefore fitted the pattern emerging where a failed multi-million project, especially in Palapye would be earmarked for sale without even appraising Batswana ÔÇô in this case tax payers who made it possible in the first place for such project to begin. We know that there has been a lot of money pumped into those projects. Before long stories would emerge suggesting that such projects would not see the light of the day largely because of bad governance practises, especially corruption. Obviously, no action would be taken to verify those claims by those in charge of the republic. The consequences of such inaction have been terrible to say the least. The contractor would disappear without delivering on the project, one that has taken more funds than initially budgeted. No one is held responsible. And life, according to our principals, has to go on to the next project, with similar outcomes and no consequences. This is why I am talking about an emerging pattern where no one accounts to the public for use of its moneys.

Having heard about the eminent sale of the Glass project I knew it was just a matter of time before another mega project received comparable treatment. When the minister in charge of energy matters, Kitso Mokaila, told parliament that they were looking into an option of selling Morupule B to the Chinese constructor I was not surprised. What stunned me was the belated tabling before parliament of that proposal. Morupule B has been a nightmare on the part of our government. It has been a colossal failure, having consumed well over 15 billion or more of our public funds and still counting. When the announcement was made about the proposed sale I remembered a friend of mine who upon finishing our studies at the university went straight into business. He opted for a diversified strategy and included combis/taxi in his portfolio. He tells me running combis was akin to playing a losing game. After 8 months in business he was forced to buy fuel, service the bus and pay the driver. Unfortunately, he was getting almost nothing in return. One day he decided to sell the combi. Before he could even place “for sale” stickers, his driver offered a price to take his combi.

The proposed sale of Morupule B offers insightful lessons to what my friend endured: A sense of being cheated. This is how we feel as Batswana when we hear that government is even remotely thinking about selling our failed power plant and others. To be frank, we have been sold a skunk by those in charge of our republic. They want to sell to the same guys who were running the project. In fact, the Chinese might have been less bothered about finishing the project because they knew the thinking of the people they were dealing with. They did not care about accounting to anybody because there are no consequences for not doing the right thing. Rejelwe, indeed!

When I thought it was a crazy week another shock came. It started with a poorly crafted position/statement by Botswana government requesting parties to pacific island dispute to respect international institutions and processes. Obviously, I did not see how we would want to engage on such matters, with no impact whatsoever on our people. It was just another waste of ink by our busy government. Any student of international relations will tell you that it gets much complicated in Asia, especially doing business with China, Taiwan, South Korea and even Japan. How our government missed on such basic understanding of reality cannot be explained. But this is where we are; punching above our weight as usual, telling China to behave. How dare we take that route? The irony of the matter, however, is that the same Chinese are now offered Morupule B. I can only imagine a hostile China running our Morupule B power plant. 


Read this week's paper