The Gaborone City Mayor, his Worship Kagiso Thutlwe, recently appeared on Btv news bulletin announcing a major financial boost his city council has recently received from one of the Bretton Woods institutes, the World Bank to be exact. The World bank has come to the rescue of the cash strapped council by awarding a $1 billion grant (or loan) to them. Equivalent to P 10 billion give or take, that’s a lot of money by any measure.
Judging by his body posturing, it was evident the Mayor was oozing with excitement and confidence as he was explaining the fortunate turn of events. Given the upheaval commitments in the hands of the city council, it only makes sense that one would display such a grand swagger in his posture.
Since the independence of our republic and on the back-drop of the country’s economic prosperity, Gaborone city has over the years experienced a population boom and hence an expansion in its geographical territory. Gaborone has been and still is one of the fastest developing cities in the world. The growth of the city has been spectacular as it now boosts of world class road and telecommunication networks, modern malls, hotels and other infrastructure as well as high end residential areas.
Unfortunately, like the majority of the country’s indigenous citizenry, most of the city’s inhabitants have not enjoyed the full fruits of the country’s economic prosperity. These are those whom capitalism’s trickle-down effect has failed to rub off on. Out of choice, they have thus found solace in dwelling in the city’s low income communities. These are the SHAA areas of Ledumang, Tsholofelo, Extensions 27 and 26, White-City, G-west, Maruapula and the others commonly referred to as “makeishane”, a derogetary word meaning slums.
The inhabitants of these low-end areas form the bed-rock of city’s cheap labour market, which established business happily exploits for an economic killing. As critical as they are to the city’s economy, their places of abode however leave a lot to be desired. For instance, most of the road networks in these areas (if not all), have never been paved. Given the crowded nature of these areas, the inhabitants therefore have to contend with the everyday scenario of dusty and unkempt streets. Occasionally though, a heavy grader is sent to smoothen the often bumpy and potholed streets, that is if somebody at the city council cares to remember. The situation is worse off during the rainy season when the streets are turned into a mud-bath, making walking and driving a nightmare. Storm water drainage system is unheard of and thus exposing residents to perennial flooding in their homesteads. On top of that, street illumination is very poor as the street light bulbs installed years and years ago are never replaced. Residents have thus been accustomed to having dark alleyways in some of the city’s most dangerous areas, leaving an opportunity for criminal gangs to thrive and be merry.
All this is despite the fact that these SHAA areas are as old as the city itself. Comparatively, new residential areas such as Block 7, Block 10, Phase 4 and the other affluent neighborhoods are better off. For some reason best known to the city planners, these areas have had paved road networks ever since their existence (save for a few streets). The street lighting in these areas is also more reliable than ko makeishaneng. The only let-down in these areas, is the city council’s maintenance plan or lack thereof.
The obvious disproportionate developments within the city’s residential areas only help strengthen the belief that the city’s authorities could care less about makeishane. Otherwise, how do they explain the fact that Ledumang, Tshwening and other low-end areas within the Broadhurst locality were for years not connected to the city’s sewage line despite them being comparatively closer to the sewage pond. So for a great number of years, residents of these areas only got the insult of smelling the city’s stench from the sewage pond but didn’t have access to the pond itself. Though the sewage lines were later constructed (in a rush) the majority of the homesteads still use the old styled pit-latrines, which emit a sewage stench of their own from time and again.
It is therefore a necessity for one to plead with the Mayor and other city authorities to shift their focus towards upgrading the city’s makeishane. After all, this is where most of the city’s electorates who never fail to participate in general elections in droves come from. It is therefore disheartening that they seem never to be considered when the city’s upgrade plans are drawn. However, like other well-off city dwellers, the inhabitants of the SHAA areas also deserve to have their humble abodes upgraded to city standards. This is with hope that the Mayor’s envisioned “Diamond City” does not exclude a certain proportion of the city’s population who are already economically disadvantaged and are the majority. We therefore pray thee Mr. Mayor (and the others we cannot mention), that you accord reasonable attention to the plight of Gaborone city’s low end areas and grant them a share of the $ 1 Billion.