Wednesday, January 29, 2020

When it comes to Central District, Minister Molale has his job clearly cut out for him

The moment of truth is fast approaching.

The current administration says it wants to improve service delivery.

The nation has taken them at their word.

In fact this governing party won power through no loyalists of its own.

There was a lot of smart voting that happened for it to win.

This included lending and borrowing of votes that are not naturally of the ruling party.

There is no guarantee that these votes will be around at the next General Election.

In short, these votes were conditionally lent to the Botswana Democratic Party.

One of the supreme conditions is that this BDP government has to deliver services to the people, across the country.

The Central District, by far the largest in the country is a symbol of power and privilege for some and a symbol of servitude and bondage for others.

The district stretches from Dibete in the south to Makala-mabedi, a few kilometers into Maun in the north.

Of all the districts in Botswana, size is a uniquely Central District disease.

Even in today’s modern times where roads are safer and cars faster, it still takes more than eight hours for one to drive through this district.

It should be broken down. For many of its residents the district has been a catastrophic experiment with tragic results in service delivery.

Bobonong, Tonota, Tutume and Boteti should become full stand-alone district councils.

As currently configured, the Central District has become an administrative albatross.

The truth though is that it is a relic from the past, a colonial and imperial bridgehead really.

It is excessively large in square kilometers, administratively clumsy and totally impossible to run much less coordinate from Serowe which for many areas is hundreds of kilometers away.

The district is led by a Council Secretary, yet the only time the Council Secretary ever visits some of its areas is when a Head of State visits.

Take Tonota for example. Since becoming Head of State just over two years back President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited Tonota much more than a Council Secretary who stays and works in Serowe.

Ordinarily, this should ordinarily be a source of shame, but in fairness it says nothing about the effectiveness of the Council Secretary. He or she is over-stretched.

Thus, it says only a lot about the impossibility of his/her job.

To start with, it is immensely unclear how even in those early days anybody thought a district much larger than many European countries could be effectively managed from one area.

One can only suspect that other than pride, the district also owes its size to the feudal and buccaneering ways of 200 years ago.

Of course it is impossible to talk about the Central District without hurting, straying, awakening, stoking or rattling the ever smouldering ambers of tribalism.

We are awake to the ongoing tribalist sensitivities that many will disingenuously deny.

The intension should never be to harm, ridicule much less humiliate those who for some reason even in this century still derive some satisfaction from fairytales of tribal superiority.

The intention should never be to question their hegemony over other people, however unjustifiable and untenable such hegemony has with time become.

Those aspects together with moral justifications of retaining the status quo – all with its feudal vicissitudes and variations will hopefully be taken care of by the promised Constitutional Review, that many keenly await.

Admittedly, it will not be easy to loosen the grip and stranglehold that the tribalists have on the district staying as one.

The mistake would be to understand the tentacles and enduring influence that they have across the vast Central District.

They will resist any lurch towards weaning off certain areas from the overarching influence of Serowe.

In Tonota where I was born and grew up, there remains a whole community of people that still feels a close attachment to Serowe.

Many of them have actually never been to Serowe – and they are already in their adulthood.

These are the people whose modern identities are constructed around an imaginary empire they think of themselves as its enforcers and representatives.

The same is true for Boteti, Mmadinare, Bobonong, Tutume and many other places inside the Central District.

These are the people who have sad misconception of their standing and that of the Central District in the overall Botswana.

Their reasoning is not evidence based and more disturbing, lacking in coherence.

They think the Central District is a representation of all of that is Botswana at its finest.  

At best the district actually represents modern day colonialism, and at worst naked tribal masochism.

These are the remnants of a dying empire. They see themselves as custodians of whatever ruins of that yesteryear empire still remain.

Even after the Central District has been broken up, they will remain as cowardly remnants of a past glorious era – dark postscripts reminding all how great the empire used to be.

They are imperialist in outlook and much more vicious and indeed ferocious in their defence of the headquarters than the people at that headquarters.

The Constitutional review will provide a tribal litmus test on exactly where allegiances lie. It will be untidy, but there is simply no surgical cure for tribalism. For it to heal it has to be subjected to the crude and blunt hammer that first reopens old wounds.

These are hard, painful realities – not moral blackmail.

There should however be no thought of waiting any further to solve what has been probably the largest source of administrative failure and hindrance to human development since independence.

The Minister of Local Government and or Rural Development Eric Molale is fully empowered to improve administrative efficiencies of areas under his ministry either by getting authorization from parliament or using such legal instrument as he might see fit.

No need for him to wait or ask for any more powers.

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