FRANCISTOWN: As the water crisis continues to bite because of dwindling water levels at Gaborone Dam, resulting in unprecedented thirst in Greater Gaborone, the debate for the designation of Palapye as the administrative capital rages on.
“Relocate the country’s capital to Palapye because it has good supply of water,” screams a recent post on the wall of a Facebook account of Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, the fiery trade unionist.
“I feel that there is good supply of water in the northern part of the country, which will be cheaper to utilise for development in Palapye and its hinterland than carrying it down south,” reasoned the deputy secretary general of Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU), strengthening his arguments for designating the village as the administrative capital of Botswana.
“There are a number of challenges facing Gaborone as a capital city, inter alia shortage of land, shortage of water and others,” he argued.
Motshegwa, who is also the Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLHWU) secretary general, set the ball rolling with his highly infectious debate on February 17 that attracted an array of comments from hordes of his friends on Facebook.
His take is that Gaborone is having its own fair share of troubles hence he suggests that Palapye, which is centrally located and a promising industrial centre, is suitable to be designated as the administrative capital of Botswana.
He argued that shortage of land has resulted in high prices of housing and many Batswana can not afford that anymore in Gaborone.
“The concentration of all government operations in Gaborone has caused so much migration from other areas into the city in the hope of a better livelihood. I consequently have the view that Palapye be designated as administrative city for such move will ease pressure on Gaborone,” he observed. However, other people differ with Motshegwa. Tefo Manyeula, without supporting his choice, preferred Serule to assume the new role of administrative capital.
“Serule is the best,” he said.
Another contributor, Kana Kebuamotse Kebuamotse backed the motion and declared in the vernacular: “Motshegwa o bua nnete ee sa tshwanelang go itlhokomolosiwa ke ope le sefofu se a bona (Motshegwa is telling the honest truth, which even the blind can see).”
Selebi-Phikwe based political activist, Dimpho Phuma Mashaba gave the relocation a nod provided there is an amendment to Motshegwa’s motion favouring Selebi-Phikwe.
Rakim Dawood took the debaters on the social site down memory lane and reminded them of a parliamentary motion by former Botswana National Front MP, Robert Molefhabangwe (Now ruling BDP activist).
Molefhabangwe had wanted parliament to declare Palapye an industrial capital.
Letsweletse Martin Dingake also holds the view that the powers that be should consider Palapye as an alternative administrative capital.
“It has to be Selebi-Phikwe please. I totally agree Gaborone is unsuitable, but Palapye has been given major developments ahead of Selebi-Phikwe,” said Opelo Tshiamo, describing Palapye as a village.
“Also Palapye’s outlook generally is not the type that can host diplomats from the developed world. Selebi-Phikwe is well-placed.”
As for Gloria Moengele-Seleka, she finds Francistown unsuitable because it does not have land, “all the land here belongs to Tati Company. Make (sic) your research.” Robert Bagali opposed the choice of Palapye in the strongest terms arguing, “over P15 billion already invested within a short time in Palapye and what have we to show for it? BIUST, Morupule B, Fengyui glass manufacturing project and many more.” Bagali’s view was that burdening Palapye with more responsibilities was like cursing it like Molefhabangwe did as an MP reminding his followers about the 1996 floods that swept across Palapye leaving a trail of destruction.
Former Mmegi editor and now a director at Competitions Authority, Gideon Nkala also chipped in, albeit in support of moving to his home village of Palapye.
“As a Palapian, my view might be considered partisan, but I believe it makes logic. Given the centrality of Palapye along the eastern corridor, she would be the logical administration capital while Gaborone remains the commercial capital city,” he said.
Contributing to the debate that had gone viral, Nkala said Palapye would becomes Washington D.C or Pretoria but all commercial activities is still in New York or Johannesburg.
“The real issue is decongesting Gaborone and attain efficiency,” he argued.
As for Kaelo Molefe, he seemed to be bothered by the reality.
“ I can’t imagine having to drive all the way from Kanye to Serowe. We also need development here in the south. What it means is that Palapye and Serowe will get new houses.”
Molefe added: “Bangwato long tried to make Palapye an administrative capital. We all know what became of that place. Unless we consider another place, I am not for Palapye at all.”
Motshegwa straightened his points by saying that his proposal is for enhanced administration and the need to balance development in the country.
Ketshabile Kitso Ketshabile shot down the unionist’s views saying that he sounded like a man who contributed to the death of the Gaborone Dam.
In summation, Nkala who earlier declared his interest as a Palapian corrected some wrongs in the debate: “ Well, I think Motshegwa’s post is a little different from Molefhabangwe’s motion. The former MP wanted parliament to make Palapye the industrial base or capital, which is different from an administrative capital.”
His thinking was that except for the available land and accessibility, Palapye makes a strong case for administration capital than industrial.
“Botswana is landlocked and distance to ports and commercial hub like Johannesburg is a major disadvantage when transporting inputs and other goods. It could be very expensive to set up an industrial capital in Palapye.”
On the other hand, Nkala said administration is an internal matter that would cure a problem that everyone is aware of. He argued it would be easy to make Palapye an administration capital just like what was done in Nigeria when the capital moved to Abuja from Lagos or in Malawi, Lilongwe from Blantyre.
“Of course issues of uneven development or regionalism can never be wished away and I believe when the time comes our principals will consider everything; objectivity, expediency and sentiments,” he concluded.
A senior economics lecturer at the University of Botswana (UB), Gaotlhobogwe Motlaleng said the capital could not be relocated to Palapye purely for the sake of water. He noted that there are many factors that are considered for the choice of a capital saying population is paramount amongst these. To him, the current status quo should be maintained with alternative sources of water found.
“Botswana’s population is less than that of Rustenburg in South Africa and what more about villages like Palapye?” wondered Motlaleng.
He observed that once the Gaborone Dam has completely dried, water can be drawn from other sources like the Dikgatlhong Dam through the North-South Water Carrier and life will continue instead of the government burdening itself with projects like relocating the administrative functions to an area whose viability is not even tested.
The secret of it all is the requisite human population and Motlaleng wondered who the consumers of the services provided by the administrative capital set in Palapye would be. He even wondered who would really be attracted to working in an area like Palapye.
“Look, young professors cannot come to work in a rural setting like Palapye as they will always be in Gaborone for all the services they will need including for their motor vehicles and the like, which are not even available in Palapye,” he observed, adding that instead Palapye in that respect will only attract retired professors.