City of Francistown Council Wages War On Unemployed Youth

Last month, the City of Francistown Council released what they referred to as the "Draft Guidelines for Car Washing Facilities". According to them, after a "survey" they conducted, they concluded that car washes have adverse impacts on the aesthetics of the city as well as consuming portable water and generating waste. Because of those findings, they found it necessary to regulate and manage the operations of these car washes through the aforementioned guidelines.

The guidelines outline several development standards which car wash operators are supposed to abide by in order to be approved and allowed to operate by the City Council. Here are some of these standards. Firstly, it is important to note that the City Council plans on issuing out operating permits for two types of car washes being Automated & Enclosed Car Washes as well as Temporary Car Washes.

The first type, being Automated & Enclosed Car Washes, are supposed to abide by the following regulations;

1. The drying area shall be a fully roofed structure and shall be large enough to accommodate two or more cars without encroaching into the driveways or rights-of-way of the facility

2. A customer waiting area shall be provided that incorporates benches, landscaping, and amenities including but not limited to fountains, sculptures, information kiosks, enhanced paving and drinking fountains

3. Drive-through aisles shall provide adequate queuing distance to accommodate five vehicles before the first stopping point (such as the vacuum bays or drying bays). Pedestrian walkways should not intersect the drive-through aisles, but where allowed to do so they shall have a minimum of 4m clear visibility, and they shall be emphasized by enriched paving

4. Required parking spaces shall be provided for all automated car washing facilities

5. Cars awaiting collection should not be parked in any public right of way but on a designated space/area

6. An oil/water separator or other device approved by the local authority sufficient to capture leaks/spills of cars should be installed to minimize infiltration into groundwater sources or surface waters

7. They can be permitted as ancillary uses to petrol stations.

The second type of car washing facility which will be permitted by the City Council are Temporary Car Washes for promotional purposes or fundraising activities. The regulations which will be governing the issuance of permits for such are as follows;

1. A temporary car wash shall not be held unless a temporary use permit has been obtained from the City Council

2. The temporary use permit for a car wash shall be valid for a maximum of two days

3. A consent letter from the property owner on whose property the temporary car washing will be conducted shall be required to carry out the activity.

Some other general guidelines which will govern the operations of car washes include the following;

1. No carwash structures shall be permitted on the road reserve or any public street right of way.

2. Where the property being developed for a car wash abuts a residential property, a 1.8-meter solid wall shall be built and maintained along the common boundary line

3. The water tank and associated equipment shall be located to the rear of the car wash and be screened with landscaping or 1.5 m stub walls where necessary

4. Operators must connect to the city sewer network to discharge wastewater

5. The use of water from unauthorized water connections is prohibited

6. A car wash should be metered separately. The operators must also ensure compliance with any other provision from Water Utilities Cooperation

7. The operator must have a contract with a licensed solid waste carrier so as to collect waste

8. The operator must have a contract with a licensed oil collector

9. Operators must also pay a monthly levy of P500.00 to the City Council in order to be allowed to continue operations

10. Non-compliance will be charged as a P 5000.00 penalty fee and P500.00 per day for continuous non-compliance

To say that these new guidelines are ridiculous would be a huge understatement. Not only are they oblivious to the socio-economic nuances of this country, but in the long run, they are going to backfire not only on the City Council itself but also on the residents of Francistown.

In a country with over 35% youth unemployment, informal businesses like car washes are a means of earning a living for hundreds of young people in Francistown who have been failed by this country's ineffective employment creation policies.

These regulations for car washes being suggested by the City Council will take away a means of earning a living for so many of these young people. How many car wash operators will be able to do things like submitting site plans, hiring waste and oil collectors, building parking spaces, erecting 1.8-meter walls, connecting to sewer networks etc in order to build a compliant car wash facility? What will happen is that because of noncompliance, these businesses will be forced to close or be demolished which will lead to a considerable number of operators turning to crime to fend for themselves.

Is this what the residents of Francistown want? More crime? Is reducing car washes in order to make the city more "aesthetically pleasing" worth increasing the amount of destitution and crime in the city? I do not understand how the same City Council which fails to close up potholes for months on end and takes weeks to fix leaking sewerage drains and collect trash is suddenly so concerned with making the city "aesthetic" at the expense of the livelihoods of the unemployed youth of Francistown.

These new guidelines cannot be allowed to be implemented. They will create a domino effect of undesired consequences which will hurt not only the car wash operators who will have their businesses taken away from them but also the residents of Francistown who will have to deal with even more crime as a result of the blind planning by this incompetent City Council.

There is nothing wrong with the City Council trying to ensure that car washes are complying with some form of regulation but the draconian guidelines outlined in the document are not the right form of regulation. Only a few individuals who are able to invest tens of thousands of pulas into building a compliant car wash facility will benefit from the implementation of these regulations. What about the rest?

The first mistake that the City Council did when devising the initial draft of these guidelines was not consulting with the car wash operators regarding the best way to make car washes sustainable. As they state in the document, what they did was do a so-called "survey" and from those findings came up with those ridiculous guidelines. What kind of modus operandi is that? How do you go about doing city planning without consulting the people who will be directly affected and impacted by your planning?

In my opinion, the best way to embark on this process will be to first and foremost scrap the released guidelines. They are absurd and nothing good will come out of implementing them. Secondly, invoking the spirit of consultation that we hold so highly in this country, the City Council should embark on an extensive consultative process with car wash owners to better understand their business models and how their operations, with cooperation between both parties, can be made to align with the city's health and safety standards. 

For the youth, earning a living in this country is already hard enough. The fact that the City of Francistown City Council wants to make this process even harder through their senseless regulation of an informal industry should not be tolerated by anyone. The City Council must simply get told where to get off. They must be told that before they can try to flex their muscle on informal businesses, they must first focus on reducing the failure rate of their development projects as well as being able to effectively and efficiently provide basic services to the residents of Francistown, a task they have been failing at for years and years on end.

Please sign the petition to stop the City of Francistown City Council from implementing these proposed guidelines which are going to destroy so many livelihoods. You can access the petition at this link. Please also share the petition.

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