Thursday 9 October 2008

An uncomfortable truth

The truth isn’t always what you want it to be.  That’s just one of those lessons that adults have to learn although many of us still retain one or two childish delusions into our grown-up years.  Some adults still believe in ghosts, witchcraft and thokolosi.  Some still believe that Governments are best placed to run businesses.  I confess I still believe that public transport and BX drivers CAN drive safely if they want to.

But we’re all slightly deluded if we still believe in this sort of nonsense.  Part of growing up is to put behind us the childish delusions and to embrace what is really true.  What is demonstrably true, the things that are based on real evidence.  Far from making life clinical and boring in fact this approach just makes us much more in touch with reality.  As the author Douglas Adams said “Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

As consumers, as citizens, just as people we have an obligation to look around us and examine what we are told and to try our best to identify what is right and what is not.

I’ve had to do this recently and it’s not always a terribly comfortable thing to do. 

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the forthcoming alcohol levy.  Instinctively I opposed it.  One of the reasons I opposed it was that I thought just putting up the price of booze wouldn’t actually dissuade anyone from drinking.  Well I was wrong.  It doesn’t take much internet browsing to establish that there is actually quite a lot of evidence that putting up the price of alcohol reduces it’s consumption.  Obviously there’s an element of common sense in that but it struck me as being a rather crude way to achieve the aim of reducing alcohol abuse.

I also have a fundamental opposition to anything that places me in the same camp as puritans.  I am a self-confessed self-indulger and I really dislike that streak of puritanical rejection of fun you sometimes see.  A puritan has been described as a person who has the nagging suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having more fun than they are.

However the uncomfortable truth for me is that there IS quite a lot of evidence that when countries enforce a levy such as the one our government is considering then alcohol consumption DOES actually go down.

However, I do still oppose it.  Not, as a friend pointed out, because each time it’s implementation approaches I stock up on wine and then promptly drink the stockpile in celebration each time it is postponed.

No, I oppose it primarily because it’s a bit like employing a dog-catcher rather than tying up your dog at night.  Instead of introducing something new with a range of unknown consequences why don’t we first use the tools we already have?  We already have a remarkably effective method for controlling alcohol abuse.  In fact we have thousands of them.  Very usefully they even wear easy-to-spot blue uniforms to help us see them.  The Police.  They have the training, the transport and, most importantly, the legal powers to curb excessive drinking.  They have the power to sit outside bars and make sure we don’t get into fights.  They have the power to stop someone who’s driving like a drunken moron and take their keys away.  They have the power to close down bars if they are causing a public nuisance.  All of these powers exist already.  There just not being used.

Instead of trying the levy first why don’t we demand that the Police use their existing powers and see what effect that has?  It’ll certainly be cheaper for everyone than introducing the levy.  It’ll save some jobs, save KBL some legal expenses and will earn the Police some respect from the community.  Only when there is real fear of enforcement of a law (and punishment) will it be respected.  

In fact, why don’t we go a little further?  Let’s not restrict our demand for action to the Police, let’s include all the other agencies.  Let’s demand that the Consumer Protection Unit enforce the Consumer Protection Act and Regulations.  Let’s see them throw a couple of store managers and Managing Directors in jail for a few days for ignoring the law.

The uncomfortable truth is that we are being badly let down by our law enforcement agencies.  The uncomfortable truth is that unless WE start demanding service from the authorities we will never get them.

Another uncomfortable truth is that it’s not just the public service that is letting us down.  Anyone who uses the internet regularly will have noticed some severe problems recently.  I’m told that this is down to a BTC problem.  BTC even issued a press release outlining the problem and referring customers not to BTC but to the Internet Service Provider.  Where exactly is this press release?  I don’t know.  It’s not on their web site where you might expect it to be.  The only way I know there WAS a press release is because I found a reference to it at  That’s not exactly comforting, is it?

This week’s stars!
  • Opi from Musica at Game City in Gaborone for going out of her way to deliver excellent service.
  • Boitshoko at FNB First Card for being brilliant.
  • Philemon at BPC for being really helpful and for caring about his customers.

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