‘Deadly third wave shows that Masisi does not have a plan’
BDP warned about a Tsunami in 2024 elections
President statement on COVAX is too little, too late – analyst
Nurses blame chop & change of executives at MoHW
With Botswana turned into a global hotspot for Covid-19 pandemic driven by fast spreading delta variant, all eyes are on President Mokgweetsi Masisi to provide answers as the nation awaits vaccination while the death toll rises.
Health facilities are stretched and due to mounting pressure on government and Masisi himself, it is predicted that the Covid-19 situation poses a serious threat to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the next elections. As the covid-19 crisis explodes, government faces widespread criticism from across sections of the population, a move which observers say could harm Masisi and the BDP.
Political and Administrative Studies lecturer at University of Botswana (UB) Dr Adam Mfundisi said the Covid-19 pandemic is here to stay longer than expected and it needs strategic leadership. He said combating the Covid-19 pandemic requires an agile change in management strategy. “Citizens want to live in a safe and healthy environment without threats of infection, hospitalization, and treatment. Herd immunity is the cornerstone in the containment of this pandemic and therefore massive vaccination of the population is required. There is a consensus in Botswana currently that extensive and intensive vaccination of the people is critical to fighting Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr Mfundisi, who also doubles as a public policy analyst.
He said the months of June and July 2021 have been devastating to Botswana population with the highest rate of infections, hospitalization, and deaths. Vaccination of the population has been extremely slow due to inadequate supply of vaccines. “With a population of less than 3 million, Botswana’s economic position, could have been an added advantage but to no avail. President Masisi has had all the powers and resources at his disposal to marshal to effectively manage the Covid 19 pandemic. The Botswana Government under the leadership of the President has done a disservice to the country and the people in its inability to effectively deal with the pandemic,” he said, urging for paradigm shift in managing Covid-19.
Experts say, Botswana Government lacked a coherent and clear strategy at the beginning of the pandemic in Botswana. It failed to develop a shared vision for all but pursued a partisan based approach.
According to Dr Mfundisi, the ruling BDP and its leadership have politicized and polarized the management of the virus with the naive objective of popularizing the party and its leadership. He noted that they weaponized the fight against Covid 19 to achieve political and economic mileage with the State of Emergency powers vested in the Presidency were viewed as a ‘silver bullet’ to contain the virus while every alternative strategy from other stakeholders was ignored.
“Every alternative strategy from other stakeholders was ignored. There were weird statements from some quarters within the BDP that there were not in a coalition and therefore they will do everything solo to manage the pandemic. Herd Immunity is an Achilles heel in the management of the virus. The BDP and its leadership will face tsunami in the 2024 general elections and beyond,” he added.
Government Chief Whip at parliament, Liakat Kablay said BDP as the ruling party is worried by surging Covid-19 positive deaths and cases, promising that vaccines are coming. Kablay said it was unfortunate that some quarters of the society including the opposition are using the Covid-19 to target the president labelling him a failure while he is working hard.
“We as the BDP government we are committed to buying vaccines just like minister of health Dr Dikoloti informed parliament and the nation. This is not the BDP disease and president has said in the beginning that to fight this virus, government will work with all stakeholders. It is not true that BDP refused to take advises from other social partners including opposition at parliament,” he said.
That being the case, Kablay said government is aware of the decampaigning means that are aimed at discrediting the BDP government buttressing BDP is not worried by the critics.
The Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) has firmly condemned the consistent chopping and changing of the senior leadership at the key Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) as the reasons behind why the country has lost the fight against Covid-19 pandemic which is causing devastation now.
The displeased union president Obonolo Rahube in an interview on the sidelines of BONU press briefing on Tuesday, said peak in Covid-19 today is as result of immature changing of officials at MoHW.
According to him, it was unavoidable that the changing and chopping of Permanent Secretaries, Ministers and Director of Health Services at MoHW within short time will result in a serious problems.
He said that severe situation of Covid-19 pandemic devastation on the ground at the moment it should be a serious wakeup call to the appointing authority being the President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
“As nurses’ union we have been concerned by the reshuffling at ministry of health and we have warned that when you are in the battle filed you cannot chopping and changing the commander in middle of war. We have seen the Minister of Health, 4 changes made in the Directors of Health Services and (3) Permanent Secretaries changed at the height of the pandemic. This is bad,” he said.
Rahube noted that the impact of unnecessary changes of key commanders at MoHW is felt now.
Dr Mfundisi says the Office of the President (OP) has implemented the drastic measures in the governance of the ministry health, firing top leadership, and replacing a minister who is medical doctor Dr Lemogang Kwape replacing him with one who is veterinary doctor being Dr Edwin Dikoloti.
“In addition, continued instability in the leadership of the Department of Public Health Services. The Director who was at the helm of the Department at the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic was unceremoniously fired and replaced. And, currently, another Director was fired and replaced. The firing of health officials who are pivotal in the fight against the pandemic is demoralizing bureaucrats in the Ministry,” he said.
The nurses’ union demand that government comes out clear with the procurement of vaccines. Rahube said that the nation will perish due to unavailability of vaccines and oxygen in hospitals.
On Friday, minister of health Dr Dikoloti said government is on track to solicit vaccines. “By February 2021, government had paid a total of USD 10,302,882 to the pooled procurement facilities of COVAX and AVATT. To date, the government has paid a further USD 8,932,000 directly to the manufacturers, making total investment of USD 19,234,882, for COVID-19 vaccine gaining,” he said.
However, Mfundisi said Masisi’s statement on COVAX processes in the distribution of vaccines should be interpreted as too little and too late and we should read between the lines. “Leadership and communication are important in the period of uncertainties as we witness with Covid 19. Lack of adequate investment in different kinds of communication has been a feature the government management of the virus. The pandemic has caused uncertainty and anxiety amongst the people and effective communication is vital to provide timely and truthful information. Distrust in government and institutions leads to lack of confidence in whatever government says or do. Authentic leadership requires honesty and benevolence in response to the plight of the people in the face of a devasting pandemic,” buttressed UB don Dr Mfundisi.
To that end, Mfundisi opined that lack of political will and commitment by the BDP leadership in availing the necessary resources to management Covid 19 is legendary with virus causing harm.
Whither Task Force
On Friday, BDP MPs used their majority numbers to quash a motion by the UDC MP for Ghanzi South Motsamai Motsamai who wanted task force to be disbanded as per nurses’ demand too. The contention by Motsamai was that the task force has proved to be incompetent in managing the pandemic with BDP MPs arguing and voting against motion saying task force is very critical.
Vice president Slumber Tsogwane said that the opposition wants the task force to be disbanded because of their hatred to the scientists who have done well in advising government on Covid-19.
According to Mfundisi, the Presidential Taskforce establishment was not transparent and open. He indicated that the president and his advisors assembled a male dominated Taskforce with no clear and measurable objectives hence he agrees it should be disbanded as it offered nothing.
“Millions spent on the Covid 19 Taskforce could have made a different in the capacitation of the health system which is currently in a poor situation. There is glaring shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the health facilities. Shortages of essential equipment, oxygen, and services are hampering the frontline clinical and administrative personnel to adequately containing the Covid 19 pandemic. In some instances, Clinics and hospitals are a super spreaders of Covid 19 pandemic. The Taskforce has failed to develop a proactive strategic plan of action to evaluate critical needs and identify areas of weaknesses and deal with such,” highlighted Dr Mfundisi.
Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) spokesperson Lawrence Ookeditse said the problem with the government has been dishonesty particularly with regards to its commitment to procuring vaccines. Ookeditse said that government couldn’t expect miracles when it has bought the vaccines late. “The statement by Dikoloti was just a rhetoric and it offers not hope on the country getting the vaccines. Today’s crisis is a result of the incompetent government and its dishonesty. It is very clear from Dikoloti that we entered into negotiations with Pfizer already late this year and this means we will not get vaccines before countries who ordered first. Masisi’s BDP government failed,” he said.
He noted that government if it fails to procure vaccines should be using at least its relations with the superpowers such as China, United States of America and United Kingdom for assistance.