Three recent news reports can be taken as being generally representative of the way that the government so frequently works against itself. But even more to the point, these reports also demonstrate that it is either unwilling to recognise what is happening or, if it has done so, of doing something to put matters right.
Take the rumour that has long been doing the rounds that the land on which State House is built was owned by Seretse and that rent is even now being paid to, what are coyly described as, his descendants.
Personally, I found the idea far-fetched not least because whilst Seretse might have hoped for the best, he couldn’t be absolutely certain that he was going to win that first election and be the first occupant of the new State House.
Even then, why would he have wanted to make such an investment? Nevertheless the rumour has had considerable appeal for others and has been particularly damaging.
It has also been allowed to gain traction as a result of the government’s unwillingness to get the truth out into the open and thereby to kill it stone dead. Instead, it has kept quiet allowing the rumour to spread and more and more people to be convinced that it must be true.
Recently it got its opportunity to kill off the rumour once and for all when the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) asked the relevant representative of the Office of the President to clarify matters.
Instead of seizing the chance to do so, she repeatedly prevaricated being unable to say either that she didn’t know or that it was not true. And as a result she has ensured that many more are now convinced that it is true. (Weekend Post 28 May – 3 June) Amazing.
And then there has been the sad tale of the Kgalagadi Bricks. Remember the fanfare when it was announced that some bright soul had found a way of making decent bricks from the fine sands of the Kgalagadi? A notable and wonderfully encouraging break through. But what happened next? Absolutely nothing! Why? Because, it has now transpired that whilst the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology wished to push ahead with the production of these bricks as a commercial project, the Office of the President regarded it as a tool for poverty alleviation. Result.
The bricks fell between the gap created by the two government authorities with each one, farcically cancelling the other out. And nothing was done by either of them!
And lastly, the PAC had a field day when denouncing the government for bankrupting citizen contractors. (Weekend Post 28 May – 3 June).
Reading a report like this does take one’s breath away. Apparently millions of pula are owed by the government to sundry citizen contractors
with some amounts outstanding since 2011. In Francistown West constituency alone more than 60 cases have had to be taken up. The two worst offending Ministries are Agriculture and Trade and Industry whose accounting officers were unable to provide the Committee with valid reasons for withholding payment.
Seemingly, however, this is not simply a matter of an unwillingness to pay what is owed, it is a problem that goes very much further with foreign contractors all being duly paid on time, with locals fearing that they will be victimised if they pressed their case and a government that apparently makes life difficult for citizen contractors. An outside observer might well dismiss this particular scenario as fanciful, overstated, even absurd.
Yet most of the rest of us, who are not contractors, are routinely obliged to engage with officials of one kind or another who are unfriendly, unhelpful and even straight forwardly obstructive. Many are to be found on Land Board staffs.
There is a strange conviction amongst many who are employed that it is somehow demeaning to help other people.
Could this be the case with those accounting officers? But then it must also be asked what action has been taken by other MPs who have constituents who government is, in effect, refusing to pay - perhaps some who have been unpaid since beyond 2011! Have they raised the problem with the respective Ministers and if so, what happened? Did they prove to be as unconcerned as their accounting officers?
Most MPs will know that if they hope to be re-elected, they need to look after their constituents. And party leaders will be acutely conscious of the need to avoid ill will. And yet, for some reason, as the PAC has just shown, it doesn’t work like that.
For so little, our major politicians are prepared to lose so much. What can possibly be the explanation?