When President Khama became Vice President in 1998 he announced that all those who wish to meet with him to discuss issues about any government office are welcome to walk to his office without an appointment. The public was elated and people thought that for the first time, they now have a politician who now cares. Before long, no one could see the VP and they were attended to by his staff, who like other government officers took too long to give a response to the queries and many remain unresolved to this day.
There was later an announcement in the government media that direct visits to the Office of the President will not be entertained and the public should direct their concerns to the Ministries. Recently there was an announcement by the President that mobile numbers of Ministers will be publicized for the public to engage them directly. This has now been changes, presumably after the Ministers pleaded that they were going to be boggled down with calls, to now say that they will take calls on their land-lines once a week for an hour. This seems to be also not working as I have had some people approaching my office to get me to avail Ministers mobile numbers as they are unable to call them on the advertised numbers.
I would like to believe that the above moves by the President are well intended. However, the best approach by a leader is to ensure that you have systems and procedures that are effective in the public service. It should not take a call to the President or a minister for one to get service from a government department. Criss-crossing the country with a battalion of ministers to listen to queries and resolving them on the spot does not present a solution to system failure.
I may be wrong to assume that the moves by the President are informed by a genuine concern, just that he has adopted the wrong approach of thinking that with his ministers; they will be able to resolve all queries and not address the issue of effective organizational management geared at delivering good customer service. Or is this just an election bluff?
*Dumelang Saleshando is the Leader of Opposition and President of Botswana Congress Party.