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Accepting Qualified Responsibility

SANDY GRANT
It seems to be all back to front. Heavy rain in mid-March following no rain at all during those last few very hot months. In future we may need to concentrate on winter crops and forget about summer farming.

There was, as often with heavy rain, disruption, inconvenience and damage. But what bliss just to smell the rain and listen to it falling, to enjoy those low grey/black clouds and see water on the ground and life returning. But then there has also been enjoyment to be had from recent news announcements, reports and related comment.

Heard on the radio, for instance, a report that the roads to Odi and Modipane are impassable and consequently motorists are advised to use alternative routes. Presumably via Mahalapye or Zeerust! But you can’t keep geography too far away even if no one teaches it in schools any more. Hence the question asked of a customer needing a stamp for a letter to England. Is England in Europe?  Something which needs to be answered more fittingly there than here! But then only few people nowadays have any need to post a letter so staff in offices up and down the country may no longer have to fear that awkward individual wanting to send a letter to New Zealand. Fine, but where is New Zealand? Near Australia. Yes, but where is Australia? Then there has been the Ministry’s cock up – to use the turn of phrase of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson - with its screening of blood donations in Gaborone and the mishap which caused it to send supplies which were syphilis contaminated to other hospitals where they were then used for a mercifully small number of patients.  I make no comment about the screening processes involved about which I know absolutely nothing.

Nor do I wish to add anything to reports of the Ministry’s efforts to identify the corrupted samples and to track down the individuals who were given transfusions using those same samples. But I do very much want to zero in on the statements made by the Ministry/Minister regarding its responsibility to those affected/infected. Relying solely on memory, BTV news reported that the Ministry will do everything possible, as far as budgetary constraints allow, to help those to whom it has given syphilis infected blood transfusions. Similarly, although not this time memory dependent, Mmegi reported (March 16) that the Minister stated that, ‘we will provide all possible medical assistance within our ability’.  The two comments, ‘as far as budgetary constraints allow’ and, ‘assistance within our ability’ convey the same message. We will help but only as far as we are able because

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there are bound to be cut off points, such as budgetary constraints, and then we will be unable to do more. This is quite wrong. The Minister/Ministry has admitted its fault and accepted its responsibility to provide necessary assistance. But that assistance can never be qualified with ‘opt out’ clauses which are intended to put a limit on the extent of its responsibility. Having admitted liability, the Ministry must now accept that it will help those it has infected without condition, qualification and equivocation. 

The government can afford to waste and misdirect enormous amounts of cash.  It can have no excuse, therefore, for denying those people the assistance they will need. There should be no feeble claims that funds are tight. If the Ministry has caused people grievous hurt, it must pay for their injury without condition and without ridiculous excuses.

But shifting topics, allow me to return from the indigestible to something more quixotic - the recent news that the Kgatleng District Council has just discovered that it is obliged to implement a new burial bye-law, approved by its predecessor and the Ministry about which it and everyone else appears to have known nothing. (The Monitor March 14) In future, bereaved families will be expected to reach the Council Secretary in haste in order to pay the set fee and obtain permission to bury someone who has died. They will also need his later permission to erect an approved gravestone.  The idea is not totally crazy. Requirements of this kind must already pertain in Gaborone and Francistown. But outside this cities, change has to be introduced carefully, stage by stage, Mochudi first, the outside villages later.  And it does have to be well thought out. Anything else, perhaps the heavy hand of some demented bureaucrat, will result in chaos.  Seemingly, bogosi will no longer have any role in burial issues and procedures – a big step either forwards or backwards, depending on your point of view.

Nor indeed will there be any role for the District Commissioner who only recently decreed that a friend of ours, a long term resident of Odi who was ever amiable in life but presumably infinitely dangerous when dead, had to be buried in Gaborone where presumably the government could keep a better eye on him.  Now it may be the Council Secretary who decides where we all end up being buried, regardless of claims about amiability.



Etcetera II

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