New Problems; New Scenarios

It was quite a week. During much of Sunday and Monday we looked towards the airport and Mmamashia and watched the huge dust storms which seemed to be heading our way. Mostly, they never reached us, presumably veering off in a different direction. But then on Monday evening, we were hit by lightning. No one can be in doubt when a hit occurs.

This time around, though, we thought that we had somehow got away with it – until we found that the tv lnb had been wrecked. Then on Tuesday evening,  the full scale iattack was finally mounted. Strong wind, then rain and then the heavy bombardment, hail hitting our tin roof like cannon balls. And then, wonderfully, more rain on Wednesday and Thursday.

In between there was, of course the water problem. In the past, when others were suffering, we were fairly lucky. But in the last two weeks we have had water on only two days. If there has been a norm during this period, it has been that water has sometimes come on stream at midnight and is then switched off around 0500 hours. But with power problems on the Wednesday, we spent vain hours trying to report to the BPC by phone; and again on Thursday morning. Nothing for it, therefore but to report in person to the BPC in Gaborone.

I hadn’t been to the Motlakase House in years so had not expected to find that the old enquiry desk is now the faults report desk. But because there is nothing to indicate as much, each new arrival had to ask how the system works and where was the back of the queue? In theory, there was no particular reason why this system should not have worked reasonably well. The reality was that it was not working at all! The person being helped at the counter seemed to be stuck. It appeared that the fault technicians, hidden away somewhere in the guts of the building, were now answering phone calls from outside and couldn’t therefore deal at the same time with those who had been obliged to report in person.

This particular problem then generated another.  There had never been any need for the enquiries desk area to be other than small. Visitors would arrive and be quickly moved on to an appropriate office. No one would be hanging around. But now everything was changed. Enquiries had become faults and the faults system was on hold. No ‘satisfied’ customers were leaving whilst many were arriving so that no less than twenty-two people, at one stage, were blocking access to the main building and offices.

I suppose that we could go there on a normal day and find the place empty with nobody there to make their complaints in person. BUT the BPC ought by now to have worked out a better system for the days when lightning causes such big problems and when its switchboard has simply seized up.  In some ways, it is tempting to compare today’s situation with fifty or so years ago and to imply that there has been no change since then. True there was then, no power at all and little water. The two situations, however, are so profoundly different that comparison is meaningless. Then, there was virtually no piped water and nearly everyone was obliged to join the queue, bucket in hand, at the nearest borehole. Today, it may be difficult to find women who are able to carry a full bucket of water on their head for any distance.

 Obsolescence, scarcity or simply the changing pattern of life is often taken to be a cultural feature so that it will come as no surprise when this particular skill comes to feature heavily in cultural revival days. Two other elements which have come so much to the fore in recent weeks – and which were non-existent in those far away days – have been the tremendous increase in interest in solar power and the purchase of bottled water on a scale that has to be seen to be believed.

We are all used to queues, queues to report complaints at the BPC, queues in the banks, at the clinics, queues to get permits, licences, renew our O Mangs and so on. But never before have we had to queue for bottled water for the very obvious reason that there has never previously been such a demand for it.

Those who produce the stuff have made a killing. At the same time, those who have been able to transport water to communities that have been devoid of water for days, even weeks, have also made a killing. Check the source of water before buying it advises the Ministry of Health. But what value is to be placed on the assurance of the supplier that what he sells is even purer than the stuff that is sold in those plastic bottles?

Editor's Comment
Botswana needs proper rehabilitation centres

Our sister publication The Monitor earlier this week carried a story on serious human rights abuses being meted on people who have gone for rehabilitation at a boot camp in Kgatleng. Allegations cite verbal and physical abuses, children being stripped of their dignity and shaved in front of others. While the abuse came to light after a suicide incident of a 23-year-old, Botswana Institute for Reintegration and Rehabilitation of Offenders’...

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