The recent furore and disenchantment shown by Honourable councilors in the Central District Council chamber over their living conditions when attending special or full council meetings in Serowe ( the administrative capital of the central district) is just a tip of an iceberg pointing to the fact that the central District Council is just too big and cumbersome to be administered as one entity.
The Honourable Councillors were simply agitating for decent accommodation when in Serowe for council business. The deplorable living conditions of the past and incumbent councilors when converging in Serowe for meetings is something which the current crop of councilors cannot condone. Councilors from the length and breadth of the Central district spend close to a month quarterly in Serowe for full council and in between can come for special meetings of a day or two.
They are however never budgeted for imprest and have to fend for themselves accommodation wise. Some rent one rooms in Serowe- which means out of the three months they spend in Serowe annually, they pay additional rentals for nine months without occupying the rooms in order to secure them. Mind you that is using money from their meagre salaries since they do not have housing allowance. Some go the extra mile of making ‘friends’ solely for accommodation purposes.
During the bargaining process it was obvious that opening a window for Councilors to be accorded imprest would be exorbitantly expensive for the council. We are talking of about 160 Councillors excluding those who reside in Serowe. It therefore shows that failure by Councilors of yore to use imprest subsidized the sustainability of running the Central District Council. Had they not slept on their right and getting exploited in the process, the Central district coffers could have long run dry.
Now the big question is, should the status quo be preserved? Will it be prudent management to run the Central District Council at the expense of Honourable Councilors to the extent that at retirement or losing elections they are paupers? It is a truism that most of the former Honourable Councilors are impoverished. They end up joining the hoipolloi and work in Ipelegeng with the very people who used to look at them in awe and address them as Honourable… how demeaning. The sudden move from a life of pomp and fame; rubbing shoulders with the bourgeoisie, the elite of the society to become an unrecognized proletariat ends up leading to premature deaths.
The point I am driving at, as alluded earlier on is that the Central District Council is just too big for prudent management. It needs to be divided somehow. One way would be to make the seven sub – districts independent ( fully fledged) districts or realign them and come up with say, four districts with their own Council Chairman and Secretary. If the status quo worked in the past, it is no longer feasible – it needs to be done away with forthwith.
Apart from the issue of Honourable Councilors and their deplorable living conditions when in Serowe, the debate in the chamber is sub – standard leading to disillusionment of most of the budding, energetic young cadres of councilors. When responding to the chairman’s speech, out of the 174 Councilors on the chamber roughly 60 manage to respond due to time constraints. Motions which are supposed to be debated are postponed to the next session in order to finish the business of the council on the bureaucratic set schedule. In fact the bureaucratic discretion runs the show as it has become so powerful that it has acquired its own authority and can make its own independent decisions. It is powerful enough to manipulate the political arm and influence policy decisions to suit itself ( like the issue of imprest forinstance – the bureaucracy budgets for itself at all times excluding Councilors.
The Central District Council may pride itself as the largest in Botswana to the detriment of infrastructural developments. Smaller districts are easily manageable and developments are awash in them, for example, Southern District Council, Hukuntsi and to a lesser extent Kweneng now have invested in Shopping centres ( malls) through private public partnerships which will go a long way in bringing income to the councils. That will always be a pipe dream to the Central District Council.
Recently established capital villages like Masunga in the North East District have paved internal roads, bus rank, street lights, hospital to the chagrin of long established capital villages like Tutume with its ‘dark capital village’ status and smelly, crampy primary hospital. In conclusion I call upon the powers that be to set up a special commission to evaluate Central District Council’s performance with a view to enhance service delivery and infrastructural development. The commission should also explore the viability of making the sub districts autonomous or any workable formula of how to divide the district into either four autonomous districts or any number deemed to be appropriate. I rest my case.
Anthony Wabuya Chebani