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Gaborone is a faceless city – report

A revised Gaborone City Development Plan 1997-2021 indicates that urban form and character of Gaborone has generally been perceived as not pleasing nor conducive to vibrant urban living.

This is because Gaborone as a city does not have an established urban design framework to be used and adopted in making the city liveable; functional; and to have a robust urban form and character. Local character has been identified as lacking. Though the radial plan of Central Gaborone gives the city its strongest identity, Gaborone is a sprawling city of walled streets which lacks character. These results in a faceless city, which lacks monuments and landmarks, and ultimately in an illegible city.

There is a conspicuous absence of heritage buildings, monuments and purpose built land marks. Urban block sizes in Gaborone are often excessively large, thus reducing the element of connectivity in the city. The cul-de-sac system has rendered the urban tissue impermeable and urban nodes are not easily linked, often providing poor choice of routes.

In addition, Segoditshane River and the railway line that bifurcate the city impede easy connectivity’s and the railway line further limits easy accessibility into the planned Central Business District CBD. Further, the report indicates that Gaborone displays a strong separation of uses and there are virtually no mixed uses vertically. This often results in the death of central areas after business hours and this is evident in the Main Mall and Government Enclave.

Planning and design of Gaborone urban tissue could not be expected to have anticipated the need to adapt to other uses due to the overemphasis on separate zoning. To revitalise some areas of the city at specific times; there is the need to introduce other uses that may bring activity at odd times. Public places like streets, squares and parks in Gaborone are often bordered by perimeter walls rendering the spaces faceless and unsafe to utilise.

On land use dispositions, stakeholders differed on whether Sebele should be retained as agricultural land or it should be converted to urban use. Some preferred its conversion to urban use because of its proximity to Gaborone and to address the issue of land shortage. Those who favour the retention of Sebele as agricultural land point to the environmental desirability of green areas in the vicinity of urban areas.

In cases like this where there is conflicting views as to what use a land should be put to, other factors such as the principle of best and highest use of land normally applies. In this case, consideration should be given to issues of capacity utilisation, return on investments, and number of beneficiaries as well. A case for utilisation of portions of this land for urban developments is later made in this plan.

Land shortage is still the main issue in Gaborone and attempts by Government to acquire the tribal areas lying around Gaborone has not been fruitful as local communities demand a better deal than what the state is offering. A CBD has been planned and fully serviced but remain largely undeveloped. A number of shopping malls have since sprung up in other parts of the city- Game City, River Walk, Molapo Crossing, West gate Mall and Fairgrounds Mall. This is seen as a contributing factor to the slow pace of developments of the CBD.

There have been a significant number of land use changes from urban use to another in Gaborone. Single family residential to multifamily residential uses accounted for 47% of the changes between 2000 and 2006, and residential to commercial accounted for 22%. This leads to increases in population densities often linked to frequent blockages of sewages pipes and traffic congestion in the areas where major land use changes have taken place, like in the central Gaborone area, without a corresponding upgrade and infrastructure capacities.

The informal sector trading activities are a major concern in Gaborone since they operate in an unregulated and uncontrolled manner which tends to blight the city. They account for a total number of 2883 of which 60% are owned by women and 40% by men. Most of these activities are around residential areas, malls, bus stations and industrial areas. They are an important part of the economy of Gaborone and any attempts to regulate, regularise or assist this sector must seek not to destroy this strength but to enhance it.

The practice of urban agriculture is not given prominence in Gaborone. In the face of inflation and escalating food prices, it is now time for Gaborone as a city to seriously embrace urban agriculture. Farm subdivisions main issues of concern include lack or inadequate coordination between various land owners and developers and failure to set aside land for infrastructure facilities (roads, sewages and electricity), as well as for civic and community activities. Each subdivision is carried out individually, at different times and without any guiding framework or structure plan. Furthermore, those subdivisions taking place up stream of the dam, impact negatively on it.

The proper development, use and management of open spaces in Gaborone city is an issue because of the fact that over 90% of the open spaces in the city have remained undeveloped and ill-managed. This has resulted in the open spaces being unkempt and used as refuse dumping areas by residents, although there is the Gaborone city landscape master plan prepared by GCC which has remained largely unimplemented.

Tourism development activities in the city are at infancy stages despite the potentials that abound in this sector. It can transform the image of the city and make it to the outside world. Gaborone only serves as a transit point for international tourists visiting the major tourism destination sites in the Okavango Delta and Kasane. Gaborone has other potentials to provide diversified tourism products in the areas of theme parks and entertainment; culture and heritage; hotels, events management and conferences, as well as from the 2010 FIFA world cup tournament in neighbouring South Africa.

The CBD plots are lagging behind in their allocations and developments. The general public’s perceptions of the CBD plan is that the CBD is wrongly located (in view of the prevailing site constraints), the plots are expensive, and the developments standards are stringent.
In terms of size and geographical location, Gaborone has no land for future spatial expansion. Its present boundaries are unable to accommodate the ever increasing population and providing for the various land use categories. The situation has led the statutory boundaries between the city, Mogoditshane and Tlokweng being blurred as a result of a contiguous conurbation that has been formed.

There is an imbalance in the distribution of services, infrastructure and investments in Gaborone and its immediate region. This is because Gaborone acts as a pull factor for employment opportunities and investments, hence the bias in favour of Gaborone. This calls for policy initiatives aimed at realising the objectives of the NSP. South East District’s land under its jurisdiction extends to areas within the confines of Gaborone. This poses jurisdictional issues in the areas of provision of services and development control.

At the same time, areas around Gaborone serve as satellites to the city and they are part of the city’s labour and commercial markets. The issue here is whether this trend is desirable as a way of tackling growth management problems facing Gaborone, or should efforts be made to boost the economic and social environments of the satellite villages so that they grow and develop in their own rights without being tied to the city’s apron strings.

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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