Conventional wisdom

Mbabane, Swaziland | 6 August 2014
Bill Snaddon
Every time I drive past the construction site of the new convention centre in the Ezulweni Valley I shed a little tear.
Well, almost — I never allow this tear to fully form and let it drop from the under-lashes of my eye. That would be unmanly. As British pop-rock band The Cure sang, Boys don’t cry. And if we do we blame it on allergies, or the old classic: “No, no, I’m fine, I just have something in my eye.”
So I allow gravity to take this tear southwards, which always seems like a good idea until my throat is choked with unwanted water.
It’s at this stage that I usually pull over to buy a packet of biltong — just to cheer me up (and to clear the tears from my throat).
I should add that it’s not often I get the chance to drive past the big, dirty hole in the ground where the foundation for the convention centre is now being laid. For some reason, if my spitting and spluttering car is not breaking down, then someone is crashing into me. And by “crashing into me” I mean that other drivers seem to have a spectacular talent for reversing into my car. A friend said that it “might be the muti”. I suggested it might be my car’s so-called engine and the lack of quality driving schools. We never did agree on this one.
But to answer the question that I’m sure has formed in your mind: Why is he (almost) crying as he drives past the building site for the new convention centre? Well, let me tell you that it has nothing to do with the nagging thought of what else that money could be spent on, such as health and education. No, it’s not that. I am (almost) crying because when I look into the future, I can’t help but associate this convention centre with an onslaught of fresh jargon — but more on that in a second.
As one considers Swaziland’s economy (and it’s urban landscape) it’s hard to believe that another convention centre is needed. Convention centres, or their close cousin — the hotel with “meeting facilities” — seem to be dotted all over the place, especially in the area where this new one is being built.
Ezulweni Valley could be re-named Convention City – or “CC” for short.
It seems that a new centre might only lead to more workshops and “trainings” for those who are already employed.
The big winner, amongst others, could well be those pesky international aid experts (many of whom do love a good convention centre, with PowerPoint facilities) who seem to clog the local landscape with “work-plans” and long reports complete with confusing jargon.
Anyhow, enough of that scurrilous talk, before I implicate myself. The fact remains that construction has began at Convention City and the trucks are-a-rolling.
“Hamba” say the signs being held by the workers controlling the flow of traffic. Of course the other side of that sign says “Stop”. But as you and I know, traffic rules are not always followed.
So let’s make the best of it and brush up on our managerial and conventional jargon — the common tongue of the International Convention Centre Circuit – or ICCC for short.
(In one sentence there I just made up a new jargon phrase with its own acronym.)

With your permission, I’ll start by singing the praises of the soon-to-be-completed convention centre using words from the ever-expanding Dictionary of Jargon: “The new Convention Centre being facilitated and empowered at Convention City will implement strategic partnerships that innovate the local, regional and international platforms and forums in sustainable World’s Best Practice synergies and Consortiums.”

This column was originally published in the Times of Swaziland on 6 August 2014

#33_Conventional wisdom_6 Aug 2014
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