Call for cleaner and safer Gaborone

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 15 May 2018   |   By Omang Kilano

The purpose of this article is to put arguments to the effect that cleanliness and the beauty of Gaborone, specifically Gaborone Central is detriment to both the well-being of the city dwellers and tourists, the overall appearance of the inner city as well as its economy, and therefore the current state of Gaborone Central should be a cause of concern. It goes without saying that worldwide, many countries would pride themselves in the beauty and cleanliness of their capital cities. Cleanliness and beauty come at a cost, but the costs outweigh the gains in terms of attracting and luring tourist with scenery that is marvel to watch and that could only be described in superlatives such as awesome, breathtaking, and magnificent. Countries often take pride in their beautiful, magnificent and iconic stadia and modern shopping malls

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It is an undeniable fact that a clean environment and beautiful landscaping as well as beautiful and well-looked after environment relaxes the mind, is an anti-depressant or acts as a psychological therapy. It is also an undeniable fact that cleanliness and eye-catching landscapes play a big role in tourism. Unfortunately, ours, especially the so-called Gaborone Central is location neglected to ruin. The current state of Gaborone Central is appalling, to say the least. Most of its parts is characterised by building in derelict state, not-so-attractive national stadium, dirty and dilapidated Gaborone Second School (GSS) ground tennis courts, as well as cooking oil- and greasy-smelling sidewalks wayside government institutions from whence roadside hawkers operate. I bet tourists will shy away from places in such a state; dull and ugly landscape/places work against tourism. Worse still, property value in the area tend to be affected negatively if the area is in such a state.

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This article was primarily motivated by the apparent current health-risky conditions that I observed at our national stadium during a church service that was held at the national stadium on the 15th of April 2018. Specifically, the state of  toilets is appalling, to say the least; the ablution areas are littered with used tissue papers, old, soiled and water soaked torn newspapers, and  chicken bones in puddles of water. It seems nobody cares about the cleanliness and structural maintenance of our national stadium. The national stadium should be our national pride.  One would have expected that the structural engineering and the resultant beauty of the stadium be such that Batswana and tourists should come from afar just to see a breath-taking beauty of our national stadium.   Taking a tour of the eastern side starting from the south east side of the stadium going anti-clockwise will certainly give the light-hearted a shock of their life. First of all, a stench of urine-like substance and excrements coming from a small run-down building on the south eastern side is more than health risk. It makes sports loving Batswana mockery in the eyes of ourselves in the eyes of the visitors. Continuing with the tour to the eastern side, you pass one of the rusty stadium gates on your left which leads into a barely paved dirty and dusty court yard behind the so-called panda stand. Simply put, both the entrance and the court yard are dull, ugly, dirty and non-attractive, period! Ahead and far left outside the stadium the neighbourhood is as dirty as it gets. A small softball pitch with about isolated two groups of three small stands is surrounded by a rusty old partly “torn” and rundown fence covered by grass and trees in some places.    Such a surrounding is a true reflection of the inside derelict state of the stadium. The stadium needs facelifting; either be demolished and build a world class national stadium, since a close scrutiny of the some of the concrete pillars supporting some of the stands have apparently started developing cracks. This is really scary, to say the least.  Building a strong forty-seater all-roof world class national stadium will surely go a long way in attracting more international tournaments to Botswana and this will add more to the city’s economy. If the building of such an iconic stadium calls for “motho le kgomo”, or “man and a beast”, similar to contributions made when University of Botswana was constructed some decades ago, let it be. If we can’t build a world class stadium, regardless of how expensive it might be, then we might as well forget about patriotism in sport. Mediocrity, lack of passion and ambition, as well as been content with sub-standard stuff are worst enemies of patriotism. Think with me... University of Botswana Indoor Sports Arena is arguably the only magnificent world class arena/stadium in the whole country. Surely, there must be something wrong with our patriotism in sport.

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There are some well-defined and well-known institutions and land marks besides the national stadium, that constitute part of Gaborone Central, notably GSS, the so-called GSS grounds, Extension 10 and Village as well as the University of Botswana (UB), to mention but a few. Of course, there is the main mall as well. A stone’s throw from the main mall is the Government Enclave comprising of the Office of the President, our iconic Parliament building, the House of Chiefs, National Museum and the new CBD. It is therefore worth noting that the Gaborone Central arguably acts as a corridor, a front desk if you like, for tourists, foreign investors, you name it. One would expect the tourists and foreign visitors to have a very good first impression about what Botswana holds for them in terms of beautiful landscapes, clean streets/neighbourhood and, as well as secure daytime recreational facilities. The stark truth is, by its standard, most parts of Gaborone Central that are “open” to the public such as the Notwane grounds, GSS grounds are very dirty and dull. For instance, in their current state, the GSS grounds and a dusty football pitch across the road at the northern gate of the University of Botswana, as dirty and dull as they are, they are unfit and not good for sportsmen and women who value their health and personal security since they lack some basic necessities such as ablutions and proper lighting at light.  Surely, these are eyesores to our visitors, especially those who place a high value on the beauty and cleanliness of a capital city.  Our so-called main mall is often littered with small concrete boulders, rusty metal tables chained to lamp posts and to ornamental trees. Some of these not-so-pleasant structures made of torn or worn out materials find their places next to commercial banks and food outlets, obscuring the commercial bank and food outlets adverts! The Central Police Station’s backyard is a home to literally rotten malfunction old and accident battered cars, some of which seem to have been there for some decades as evident from their registration numbers!

 Night time personal security within Main Mall is also a cause of concern. Specifically, the provision of personal security for the main mall night visitors by those with duty to serve and protect is almost non-existent. For starters, most parts of the main mall are either dark or not well lit at night. Is about time we all take personal security seriously and think outside the box as to how to make our inner city, viz, Gaborone Central a safer place to be. For instance, I always wonder why the powers that be shy away from installation of CCTVs within public places like the Main Mall.  Money needed to install and operate the CCTVs is not an issue. The question is, do the authorities have the will-power, the drive, ambition and passion to serve and protect the public from the menace of robbers and rapists.  A stone’s thrown away to the south of the main mall is Extension 2 clinic which seemingly lacks proper security. The neighbourhood of the 24/7 operated Extension 2 clinic is not well lit at night and personal security for both the nurses on duty and night time patients is been compromised even further by the seemingly lack of clinic security personnel at night. Surely, this cannot be right. As is, I have a sneak feeling that suggesting the presence of a fully functional and recording CCTV system at the strategic places within the clinic compound as a deterrent measure against the opportunistic criminals will be thought of as asking too much, by the powers that be. 

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As for GSS, it is my taking that the GSS have had nothing to benchmark its landscaping and cleanliness against because of persistent state of Gaborone Central over the years, which has been generally characterised by dirty open spaces, derelict abandoned buildings such as the virtually neglected Kerekeng flats, old prison buildings at the Village with their unpleasant surroundings and the so-obvious current state of GSS grounds. GSS beauty, in case there is some, is obscured by ugly trees, or shall we say jungle! Don’t get me wrong. I am the least to advocate for deforestation.  Educationists would attest to the fact that studies have shown that a correlation exists between the cleanliness of school facilities and students’ academic performance, and unclean school promotes higher stress levels. For instance, an article by Campbell and Bigger (2008) summarizing the results of research entitled, “Cleanliness and Learning in Higher Education”, a research conducted by APPA (Leadership in Educational Facilities) and ISSA (Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association) states that the cleaner the learning space the greater the probability that students perceive they will learn and do well in their learning process.

Gaborone Central is arguably one of the health-risky areas in Gaborone. In particular, there is no guarantee that the incinerator at Princess Marina is not a health hazard amongst the GSS students, and those in the neighbourhood including those who frequent the main mall.  For example, an independent research could be initiated to investigate the quality of the incinerator at the Pricess Marima Hospital in terms of the appropriateness of its height, safety measures for the operators, as well as to investigate the effects of the gaseous products and dust from the incinerator on the health of the GSS students, teachers and those who live in the vicinity. Incinerators have considerable lethal potential. In particular, the “4th Report of British Society for Ecological Medicine” entitled “The Health Effects of Waste Incinerators” moderated by Dr. Jeremy Thompson and Dr Honor Anthony (2008), states that “Mercury is one of the most dangerous heavy metals. It is neurotoxic and has been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease learning disabilities and hyperactivity. Recent studies have found a significant increase in both autism and in rates of special education students around sites where mercury is released into the environment”. Studies have also shown that higher-than-expected levels of cancer and birth defects in the local population and increased ischemic heart disease have been reported in incinerator workers. Ischemia is a restriction in blood supply to tissues, leading to a shortage of oxygen and glucose which are needed for cellular metabolism. That is scary!  This is how unsafe some parts of Gaborone Central could be.

 As a diamond rich and one of the most politically stable countries in the world our capital city, especially Gaborone Central deserves more and better than its current state. This is even a matter of urgency since sometime next year Botswana will be a host to continental games. Surely, there is no excuse for lack of beautification of Gaborone central. For instance, the GSS grounds could be turned into a theme park with turfed mini football stadium with running track, ablutions, games rooms and a world class tennis court (not the kind of court we see near the national football stadium), as well as homely gardens similar to the Manchester Piccadilly gardens and Chelsea gardens in the United Kingdom, and to other beautiful gardens elsewhere in the world.  

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I strongly believe that an inner city whose parts look like a slum, or when a city turns into slum, and its central seems to be devoid of style and high standard deprives its residents of a homely environment and happiness. Surely, there is no excuse for those responsible for the structural development of public entities in Gaborone Central to have adopted a silent “diplomacy” and kept a blind eye to deplorable conditions, particularly the state of most of the residential houses in areas such as Extension 10 and Extension 2, White City, and CID neighbourhood. These places have virtually turned into slums, and as such, they are an eyesore to both the dwellers and tourists.

Gaborone is our capital city and it should not be left to ruin into slum. Without been pedantic, I would say, mediocrity has lowered the standard of our city. It would seem we have devalued ourselves to basic stuff and we always defend our mediocrity on the lack of money. No, is not all about money. More importantly, is about will-power, been ambitious and aiming to be the best as well as benchmarking against the best in the world. Specifically, in order for Gaborone Central (let alone Gaborone as a whole) to be in a better state, there should be a benchmarking undertake. For instance, let’s benchmark against some of the cleanest and beautiful cities in the world. It is not enough to always benchmark against our neighbouring countries. For instance, why not benchmark against Calgary city in Canada, which is regarded by many as the cleanest city in the world; learn how Calgary has been able to achieve such an accolade. To complement cleanliness, go for jugular, and benchmark against some of the beautiful cities in the world such as Venice. Venice is, arguably, the most beautiful city in the world, where each building is a work of art whose combination with the existence of stylish canals gives magical scenery which is fascinating and breathtaking at first sight. Of course, in Africa we have cities such as Cape Town and Windhoek to benchmark against, especially for their beauty and relative cleanliness.

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Cry the beloved city!  Gaborone Central needs more than money for it to be developed into a world class inner city. Money without vision, ambition, passion and wisdom to serve is not enough. Indeed, where there is a will there is a way.  Any intentional and purposive structural development or face-lifting of some parts of Gaborone Central can cascade into the likes of Bontleng and White City

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Dr Thebe Basebi

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