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Pondering Ken, Remembering George

SANDY GRANT
And then there has been Ken Matambo’s Budget. What is there, what is not there. The principal missing item is, of course, our old friend the Department of Intelligence and Security which has featured so heavily in past budgets.

In this one, it doesn’t get a mention. Presumably its needs are securely tucked away within the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security’s remarkable P4.95 billion. Another item which appears to get no mention is the Lobatse Milk Project which was supposed to meet the country’s entire needs for the next 20 years or so. But then there was only a gesture towards solar with a bit of street lighting here and there.

And there were our other old friends still needing huge injections of emergency cash – Morupule at P135 Million, the Botswana Power Corporation needing P1.35 billion, ‘to cater for emergency power supply’, whatever that might mean! And then there was ‘the P600.08 million inclusive of ESP amounting to P50 million for the Ministry of State President which covers additional poverty eradication packages. You can work that one out for yourself. And then as usual, there were all those little items that you may not have previously heard about. Take, for instance, ‘the Gaborone Precinct project, which will showcase diverse tourism products under one roof’ I tried googling it. Not a word. So maybe it is still at the secret stage. And then there is the need to cover the costs arising from the transfer of District Administration and Public Enterprise Evaluation and Privatisation Agency to the Ministry of State President. How many people, I wonder, have ever heard of it? Or indeed benefitted from it?  How long has it existed, where did it exist, what has it ever done and how many people has it ever employed? But if you try to keep abreast with what’s what, you may also feel a bit depressed if you too had never known, for instance, that ‘the Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation has set-up a world class Centre for Material Sciences that will assist in the development of new materials in the water purification sector and air filtration, amongst others.’ I get worried about tenses, that although something new already exists it will only in the future do what it is supposed to do. Hm!  Does the Institute and/or the Centre have something do with the Innovation Hub or I am being tripped up by all these Innovation Centres?  And then there is Water, and the Water Utilities Corporation which, as ever, recorded a vast loss, this time of P367.0 million. Its ‘continued poor

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performance was due to prolonged drought spells which increased water transfer cost and provision of additional water sources.’ Interpreted, this means, I suppose, that the government accepts that its poor performances will continue year after year! Depressing. And lastly, an old hobby horse of mine – bridges, important things. Kazangula is on the go although I dearly hope that someone will describe the route that the new railway will take from Livingstone, across the Chobe, into this country and then where? Platjan too, on course. Great. And Mohembo, also at the tendering stage. Platjan really isn’t a place, much like Buffel’s Drift. It’s a name on a map which, when there, amounts to a border post, a few staff houses and nothing more. But what about Mohembo? Strange that nobody even mentions it. But that maybe is because only few know where it is. Yet the government is about to spend another great dollop of cash on building this iconic new, takes your breath-away, new structure. 

Unfortunately there was another occurrence which also took our breath away. This was the sudden death of George Siwale, noted pharmacist for the last 20 at PHC Chemist, BBS, Gaborone, who knew all about our ailments although we knew nothing about his. George turned in his papers on January 22 and left with no time for any goodbyes. We need to take note in case it suddenly becomes our photo to appear on the front page of a funeral programme. Because of the nature of his job, there can be no knowing just how many people, mostly in Gaborone, will have been shocked to hear of George’s death. In the old days, relationships with people who worked in shops were a norm. And there was trust and mutual respect between them and their customers. Who has ever been able to develop a friendship with a supermarket cashier? But those over the counter relationships inevitably excluded awareness of homes and families. Of George’s family, I, therefore, knew nothing. George, was a rarity, a one man community asset, an unrivalled ambassador for Zambia in this country, friendly, always able to help, professional, wry, whimsical, a lovely man. We will all miss him but for his working colleagues these must be especially hard times.  As we think of George with affection and appreciation, we need also to think about them.



Etcetera II

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