It’s been a bits and pieces last week or so with the muddled, muddy affairs of the UDC being given an extraordinary amount of attention by the newspapers and providing the cartoonists with a feast.
Also in the news were the two hospitals, Princess Marina and Lobatse, the former because it was to be given a partial upgrading and the latter because the Ministry has so abandoned it that it barely exists as a hospital at all.
I have long had feelings of affection for Lobatse. It is a place of much charm and character. But it does so regularly gets the rough end of the stick. And with its once proud hospital now reduced to little more than a minor clinic, there must be wonder what it is about the place that is so offensive to the government. The story, this time around, is that no money is available even to keep it running as an enlarged clinic because of the huge amount committed for the Leather project.
This is back to front to me. Years ago, we used to be told that no money was available for the district museums because the government was committing so much to Tsodilo and the Cultural Village. Although the latter, mercifully never took off, the sums committed to it were never uncommitted and thus available for something else.
The reality of course, was that this was never more than a paper commitment. It follows therefore in Lobatse’s case that there are no funds available for the hospital either because the government regards it as a zero priority or because the funds that really had been set aside for it have all been diverted to Phikwe where very little in terms of job creation seems to have been achieved for so much.
And then again, it does seem strange that by allowing the Lobatse hospital to be so run down, people from there now have to join the already long queues at either Ramotswa or Princess Marina. And as we know, the Marina hospital is so overrun with patients that it can barely cope. So why inundate it with even more patients from a place that used to have its own very decent hospital? But why is it a requirement at Marina that people visiting relatives and friends who are admitted there have to produce an O Mang? Do non-citizens have to produce passports? And does it make the slightest sense to turn visitors away simply because they are unable to prove they are who they claim to be?
But then there really does seem to be no escape from these seemingly nonsensical oddities. Take the BTC for instance. Recently we found that it had cut off our phone because as it later told us, we were in arrears to the tune of no less than, hold it, P360! The point at issue here is that all of the BTC’s customers are always in arrears. It cannot be otherwise because the BTC runs an arrears payment system. Thus, the day after you have paid you are inevitably in arrears and liable to be cutoff. What would be helpful were the BTC to introduce a more sensible system whereby it cuts off people who are significantly in arrears.
Is that hoping for too much? But there are other related problems. A noted broadcaster and newsreader of yesteryear, Bishy Mmusi, was recently remarking that he now has to set aside two months of every year, which he has to devote to queuing. Of course, he is not alone. Where ever we go, there are queues which we have to join; queues for licences, at Land Board offices or a bank, for an ATM at the end of the month, at a hospital, for a new an O Mang or simply to make a routine payment.
I used to marvel how civil servants managed to avoid these queues until I eventually realised when calling a government officer to be told that that he/she was at the bank. Partly for this reason, I stopped trying to phone any kind of official knowing that it would prove to be just another frustrating exercise.
But being an experienced soul, Bishy will be well aware that matters are bound to get worse so that soon the two months he sets aside will have to become three! I have long wondered why this is so. I have also been surprised that incoming Ministers did not make it their first task to unblock obvious bureaucratic blockages, knowing very well that people who cannot pass will always find their way around whatever it is that stops them moving on. But then it is these very people who, when caught for offering a bribe, are sent to jail whereas those who were responsible for that blockage are promoted and given a better salary.
Shouldn’t it be the unblocker who gets promoted and the responsible person who could have acted but didn’t who is the one who goes to jail. Is it because of all this queueing, do you think, that we are rated as one of the unhappiest people in the world? If so it seems unavoidable that we will become even unhappier in future!