A friend tells me that, nowadays, he only rarely buys newspapers because nothing much happens and anyway, when an issue does emerge, it is rarely followed up. His latter point is obviously correct and is something which editors may need to note. His first observation however seems to me to be wildly out of tune.
I am not sure that I can remember any previous time when there were so many news stories tripping over each other - much like listening to the international news of the day – one disaster after another with the key score sheet being the number of recorded or estimated dead and injured.
Floods, land slides, road and train accidents, fires, terrorist attacks and suicide bombers. It is always infinitely depressing. Sadly, the domestic scene, with its own special catalogue of disaster, albeit of its own kind, has now become little different.
But let me ease up a moment, if only to keep hold of a proper sense of balance by mentioning the wonderful rain even though, in some places, it was too much and too hard, as frequently happens after a long drought. But now it’s green and many trees, not least the lovely mosetlha, are in flower, and the birds are everywhere. It is a tonic, and there will be few of us who have been unable to rejoice. In contrast, our domestic scene has become increasingly bewildering.
In the good old days, set backs, such as the major issues of the early 1990s, came singly – and were well spaced out. Now there is no release because the disasters are not merely multiple and cover so many areas of public life but are occurring almost daily.
There is an uncomfortable feeling that the country is haemorrhaging with no one being able to stop the flow or perhaps being aware that it is even occurring. The scenario is very strange.
It does seem that overall there is no longer consistency in government so that one arm, a Ministry or Department, is ending up implementing policies which are at odds with another. The most obvious example is of course, the rejection of applications for work and residence permits of people from other countries who have made significant long-term investments here. The existence of such a policy is obvious, but the thinking which underpins it remains unclear.
Why is the government chasing away people who have invested and employ and then spends millions of pula in an attempt to attract others to take their place.
How many jobs have been lost as a result of the government ‘s cleansing policy –
Would the figure be perhaps 10 lost for every one gained or might be it 20 or even 50 to every one? Presumably the country’s diplomatic representatives in those countries, most affected are at their wits end to know how to explain such a massive policy contradiction. Is this perhaps a racial thing because there seems to be no decrease in the number of white South Africans in Phakalane or, come to that, the number of cars on the roads or people in the supermarkets? But maybe they too are taking a hit, which is however not slowing down the one obvious growth area: new shopping malls.
And then there is the BCL. It may be overly simplistic to suggest that the government first created the problem by terminating BCL, which may or may not have been avoidable, and then leapt in to try and offset the enormous human impact of that decision. As others have asked, had it really thought through this decision?
Thus SPEDU and the appointment of Linah Mohohlo, both expected to save Phikwe from the ashes. We know that SPEDU is currently spending P32 Million on itself, but we are yet to know the budget of the new supremo. She cannot be expected to work without some sort of support staff.
The eventual balance sheet will therefore be of major interest. But SPEDU worries me. Surely, upgrading the Phikwe runway would have happened if SPEDU did not exist. And much the same point can be made about the Platjan bridge whose construction was, in any case, deferred to another year.
It is well recognised that this bridge will be of major importance to Phikwe, so why was its construction held back? There are few bridges that do not pay their way and the Platjan bridge should have been listed as a major priority.
Instead, there proved to be other more important priorities and the bridge, UB and student allowances and other essentials had, it seems, to be set aside so that approximately P20 billion could be found to purchase fighter jets and surveillance equipment. It is a quite bewildering scenario.