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Access – Available, Restricted or Denied

SANDY GRANT
It has been some time now since I put anyone on the morning bus for Johannesburg and for some reason had expected to do so at the bus station. Fortunately I was hopelessly wrong because both the Inter Cape and Monnakgotla buses leave the main Mall at 6:30am and at that time of day, that part of Gaborone looked very good – far better, I am sure, than the Bus Station.

A start was being made in sweeping up the day before’s garbage, shops and supermarkets were yet to open and school children in dozens had the pavements to themselves and were making their way on foot to school, all white ankle socks and regulation ties. When the weather is cool and for that short period of the day, traffic free, Gaborone, handed over to the walking young – all adults move around in vehicles – has a wonderfully refreshing innocence. I loved it.  But then came the drive back to Odi and despite being regularly informed about the commuter traffic into town, I was appalled.  The two-lane tail-back went on and on and on – until finally petering out well past the old Ag. College at somewhere in the BDF/Glen Valley turn off/ Content area.  When all of Phakalane’s completed BHC houses are occupied and the five hundred or so now under construction are taken up by two-car owning families, all being Gaborone dependent, the single road providing access to it from the north will become murderous. Alas, further housing development in Phakalane will represent only part of the problem because massive development in Gaborone North alone, is about to overwhelm that single road system. It is by no means impossible that commuter drivers, already positioned in that desperate queue, will refuse to allow new comers to squeeze themselves in.

If that happens, the many hundreds of commuters from Glen Valley, Gaborone North and Phakalane could find themselves obliged to turn to the north, instead of the south, so that they might join the end of the tail-back somewhere near, first Morwa, and then, as the situation worsens, Pilane. Is there anyone in Government giving thought to this problem?  Doubtless someone will point out that with single road access, the situation to the south, west and east is identically the same. 

Would this mean that because we have no obvious means of alleviating the problem, we will allow it to get worse and worse? For those for whom road access to Gaborone has already become a nightmare, the news that the President has decided that he will not take over the old diamond building, Orapa House as the new Office of President, must have come

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as a huge relief.   (Mmegi February 19) That remarkable building was purpose designed and even without having seen inside it, I can imagine that it will be difficult to find a new user who could move in without having to make hugely expensive adjustments. 

For understandable reasons, the building, one of the most visible in Gaborone, pronounces itself to be a fortress.  It was strange to me, therefore, that the Office of President would believe it to be entirely appropriate to take over a building which, in some ways, is the equivalent, of the medieval castle in many European towns.  Impregnable and of course, dominant and still with its roof top CCTV camera which, with a different occupant, would come to be regarded in a totally different way. The psychology, therefore, would have been all-wrong. But it was not just the building which would have been the problem. Government planners must have realised that taking over the building would have had a dramatic effect on traffic flows in that area of the government enclaves well as along Khama Crescent.  

At least one road now open, would probably have had to be closed whilst others providing access to some really major buildings would have been routinely disrupted, not least the Ministry of Finance. The result would have been continuous litigation to ensure that public roads providing essential access were kept permanently open. The situation would have been untenable. It is strange to me, therefore, that the government’s decision to take over Orapa House  generated zero public reaction. Seemingly, for both Gaborone’s residents and those who have working affiliations with it, the future of its most stunning building, and the implications involved for its future us, were of minimal interest. Is there a widespread, albeit cynical belief that decisions taken at the very top can never be influenced by those at the bottom? And that the best anyone can do is to hold their breath and hope that everything will turn out for the best? In the event, the government’s decision to pull back may appear now to be a victory for straight forward common sense although it may one day be learnt that no other factors were involved other than those of cost.

leitlho_grant@btcmail.co.bw



Etcetera II

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