Campaign gets P22million, P8 million for vaccine centers
Publiko Agency engaged for the campaign
The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) is spending P30 million in a campaign to promote Covid-19 vaccination among the public, driven by newly registered Publiko Advertising Agency, The Patriot on Sunday has learnt.
The campaign has already attracted a lot of criticism from members of the public at a time when anxiety has engulfed the population due to escalating Covid-19 deaths and new infections. The “Arm Ready for Lemao Campaign”was launched by MoHW Dr Edwin Dikolotion on Wednesday, a day before Dr Oratile Mfokeng-Selei announced a Covid-19 vaccination rollout strategy, giving a glimmer of hope two weeks after Botswana received a donation of the first 30 000 doses of Covishield from India.
The Patriot on Sunday is in possession of documents showing that the Arm Ready multimillion pula campaign is spearheaded by Publiko Advertising Agency and a local businessman Salim Kegodile. The campaign is scheduled to last for six months. Kegodile also serves as a Personal Assistant in one of the ministers.
According to its Facebook page profile, Publiko says it is a new Advertising Agency formed in June 2020 and is owned by local businessman West Takaedzwa who is its Managing Director. The MoHW is spending a total of P22 million on Covid-19 vaccine campaign to ensure successful uptake amongst people of Botswana, reads part of the documents. An extra P8 million will be spent by government on establishing vaccination centers across the country with Publiko carrying the branding of the centers as well. During the entire campaign, the company which describes itself as 100% locally owned, would be undertaking media advertising, t-shirts printing and social media advertising among many other initiatives.
In an interview on Thursday, Publiko MD Takaedzwa denied that his company was awarded the tender but said the government only procured certain services from the company on the campaign. “The tender is not ours because we are just engaged for some services. It is not true that we as Publiko we are driving the company. I cannot disclose how much we are paid,” said Takaedzwa briefly cagey with details referring this publication to the ministry of health officials over campaign.
Salim Kegodile on Friday said he is not involved in the campaign tender but the ministry of health approached them when it saw the concept of the campaign he ran before on social media. According to him, the ministry of health decided to take the campaign concept and launch it. “I am not getting any single pula from this campaign. It was all about me and my team being Patriotic but now some people are politicizing it,” said Kegodile briefly before hanging the phone.
Sources close to the developments at health ministry revealed that the campaign was given funds under mysterious circumstances as it was not budgeted for. The decision by the government to spend money on the campaign sparked lot of criticism from the public at a time whereby anxiety is running supreme as Covid-19 continues to cause havoc.
Minister of Health Dr Dikoloti on Friday could not been drawn into the matter and referred this publication to Ministry of Health and Wellness Chief Public Relations Officer Doreen Motshegwa.
Meanwhile, teacher trade union Botswana Sectors of Educators Union (BOSETU) is furious that government is wasting millions on unnecessary campaigns while the nation perishes. Secretary General, Tobokani Rari said the developments are disturbing. “What is very important at this difficult time is for government to tell us whether the Indian vaccine that is already in Botswana is safe. There is no time for us to delay time when the people are dying, especially teachers. Government must rollout the vaccination immediately,” said Rari, complaining that the money wasted on campaigns by printing t-shirts should be channeled into buying more vaccines.
BOSETU insist that teachers should be among the first to get the dose to save their lives because statistics show that they are dying in large numbers unlike health workers.
Botswana has so far recorded total of 458 cases of Covid-19 related deaths and 33 429 positive confirmed cases according to the presidential Covid-19 task force team figures as of Thursday.
In the vaccination strategy document, Dr Mfokeng- Selei said persons with confirmed SARS-Cov-2 infection may delay vaccination for 6 months when more data on duration of immunity after natural infection gets available. “Persons with the acute PCR-confirmed COVID-19, including those with onset of PCR-confirmed infection between doses, should not be vaccinated until after they have recovered from acute illness and the criteria for discontinuation of isolation have been met,” said Dr Mfokeng- Selei.
Meanwhile,when answering questions in Parliament on Thursday regarding Covid-19 vaccination, Vice President Slumber Tsogwane said the rollout will start in three weeks. He said the vaccine has been approved for use by Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority (BOMRA). Tsogwane also revealed that the Covid-19 task force team has been paid over P5 million to date. He was responding to question from Selebi Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse who asked what the government is doing in terms of Covid-19 management including vaccination rollout.