There really is no hurry in Botswana

I was in Eswatini two weekends ago. And I tell you, the days of the old order are fast coming to an end! My impression of the Oshoek border post was bewilderment! Except for the mushrooming shanty town at the entrance, the offices are spick and span. However, the service could do with a little polishing!

Immigration officers everywhere ought to have this thing drilled in them that they are the service of the client – it’s not the other way round – it never can be! Service is always about the customer, the client it is not about the one providing it – he or she is only a service provider-but the customer, the client is King, is Queen after all he/she is the one that pays the service provider’s salary!

And this is true for service everywhere and anywhere. Let me sample a few examples of poor service that I have had to endure in the past. An immediate past encounter was at Choppies store at the Gabane turn-off. It was a Sunday.

We wanted meals and I asked whether the meal I wanted was warm, and our store assistant gave us a stone cold ‘I don’t know!’ response! But above everything else, it was her demeanour that really turned me off. She gave us a look that said, ‘You’re not welcome here!’ Well, I did talk to her supervisor and he advised me, he’d start keeping an eye on his staff!

Then I remembered some year back when I had queued in the Bank of Baroda banking hall to withdraw money. There were at least six or more Counters that you could count yet there were only two Tellers who seemed to be at work. The service was so slow, my God, I started complaining in the queue, but alas, the Indian brother in front of me turned to scold me!

“Why are you complaining, don’t you know this is Botswana?” I was shocked, what’s this man getting to? I should know Botswana much better than him, but then he added, “There is no hurry in Botswana!” Damn it! That’s the attitude that we don’t really need. Customers must at all times stand up for what is right. They must demand the best service even when it is an uncomfortable situation that they have to contend with. We must not settle for anything less!

And the last example is a recent one when I had gone to Botswana Power Corporation offices in the Main Mall to apply for electricity re-connection. I was told to bring all the relevant documents pertaining to the ownership of the house, which I did, filled out the accompanying forms, and duly handed them to the lady officer that wore a stern face.

Surprisingly the next day, I received a call from them asking about directions to my house, I was really happy and quite certain that in spite of the cold reception I had endured the previous day, they were making it up by providing swift service.

But to my utter dismay a month later they had still not come to my house and to compound this ugly reality when I got to the office to enquire about the progress of my application I was told that they do not have such an application – it does not reflect in their system!

There I was trying to prove that I had submitted the application with all the other documents required including a copy of a signed Title Deed, but the officer told me bluntly that they did not have such an application in their system and in any case, she continued, they do not ask for all those documents I had mentioned when one is applying t relocate a Meter!

My remonstrations could not salvage the documents, no matter how much I tried, and so I had to resign myself to the ugly reality that service at the BPC Main Mall office is pretty shabby! I know very well that these examples are just a microcosm of service in both public service and the private sector. This got me thinking, especially about the poor service in the public service, which I must admit is the worst these days – what really is the work of the Public Service College?

I want to believe that before a person can be hired in the Civil Service by the Directorate of Pubic Service Management (DPSM) such a person must first be inducted into what such a calling entails, and the best place for such induction is the Public Service College.

And I daresay these short courses, including the subsequent refresher courses must be open to members of the Armed Forces, including the Police and the Prison Service, this notwithstanding the training they receive at their various training colleges such as the CIA-backed International Law enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Otse for the Police!

To me, public service is the highest calling that any person can be called to, hence it requires the utmost commitment and dedication from the service provider! Secondly, I have wondered what it is really that the Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC) is doing. What is its mandate, does it ever measure and monitor productivity levels in the public service? Where are its findings if it ever conducts such surveys, and how have these findings helped to improve our public service?

I remember the fanfare that accompanied the opening of this institute (BNPC) back in 1996 including that all-important inaugural conference of the SADC Organ on Defense, Politics and Security at which then Zimbabwean president, the late Robert Mugabe was elected the founding Chairman of the Organ!

I am surprised that we don’t hear anything coming from the BNPC these days. It is as dead as a dodo! It might be, as is usually the case, that its public affairs, communications and marketing office are the weakest link! This same can be said about the Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) – their research output on the performance of the economy is hardly ever published in local media. This misalignment ultimately has an adverse impact on government policies, no matter how good the policies and programmes are!

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is a constant feature of management – you ignore it at your own peril!

Anyway, that was really not what I wanted to share with you, my dear compatriot, I had wanted to tell you that while in Eswatini two weekends ago, I learned that the annual ritual ceremony that usually falls on the month of August known as Umhlanga – the Reed Dance – may not take place this year on account of the tense political situation in that country.

Now this means that King Mswati III will not have an opportunity to publicly pick his 14th wife to add to his harem. Perhaps it is for the best of the country that the man known as Africa’s richest King must be called upon to relent and give way to the chorus of pro-democracy activists.

Bloodletting, ritual killings, and open defiance, including burning and looting are now commonplace in Eswatini. Mswati must do the honourable thing! We all know what it is!