… As Covid19 Delta variant deaths soar
- Under pressure, Masisi to realign cabinet to govt priorities
- Cabinet reshuffle could see Dr Kwape return to Health
- Nurses fatigued, demand psycho-social support & risk allowance
- Deadly Covid19 3rd wave brings Botswana to standstill
President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is facing widespread criticism over the surge in Covid-19 deaths, driven by the deadly Delta Variant could soon reshuffle cabinet, re-deploying Dr Lemogang Kwape back to the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW), The Patriot on Sunday has learnt.
Sources speculate that Masisi will soon announce sweeping changes in Cabinet, reshuffling ministers in an attempt to calm the storm against growing criticism of government over exploding Covid-19 crisis that is spiralling out of control.
The new, more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is sweeping across Botswana and is pushing the healthcare system to its limit in the middle of an erratic vaccination rollout programme that has only aggravated the situation.
According to authoritative sources, Masisi is said to be a worried man by the state of affairs at the key MoHW which has in many instances realised a lot of leadership changes. Sources indicated that Masisi is frustrated by the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic across the country, and therefore as part of his reset agenda he will shift government focus to Covid-19.
“The president is a frustrated man as the Covid-19 is stretching the country to the limits. He is worried that the nation will demand answers from him as the death toll continues to rise. He wants to shift Kwape back to Ministry of Health,” confided a source.
Kanye South MP, Dr Kwape, was transferred from the health ministry to ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation (MIAC) replacing Specially Elected MP, Dr Unity Dow who resigned from cabinet in August 2020 amid speculation that she wanted to retire from politics. Sources claim that Dr Edwin Dikoloti will be deployed back to the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security while the current minister Karabo Gare will go back to Ministry of Trade and Investment to replace Mmusi Kgafela who is anticipated to take charge at Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security.
The current Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Kagiso Mmusi who is also MP for Gabane/Mmakgodi, is touted to replace Dr Kwape at the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation. Masisi is expected to further push for a shift in the government budget to be redirected to the fight against Covid-19 with ministries anticipated to have their budgets slashed.
A Family Medicine and Public Health lecturer at the University of Botswana (UB) School of Medicine said the Delta variant has proven that the country’s health sector is weak, once again warning of looming disaster.
The UB public health expert, who preferred not to be named in fear of reprisals, said it was clear from the onset that Botswana will not win the fight against Covid-19.
“The president and government are to blame for the collapsing health sector, which is failing against pressure from the third wave now. Hospitals are overwhelmed and the country runs the risk of acute shortage of ventilators. Another problem has been the changing of officials at the key Ministry of Health in the middle of the pandemic. Managing public health pandemic requires consistency. How many Directors and Permanent Secretaries have we had in a year at the ministry?” asked the academic rhetorically, adding that the Delta variant could have been managed better if Botswana had rolled out a robust vaccination programme to reach herd immunity quickly.
“The vaccination rollout has faltered and there is no way we could ever catch-up as the country. The much publicised arrival of vaccines by the government and even by the president himself is just like a very late drop in a very big ocean. The Presidential Covid19 Task Force is also failing to demonstrate any scientific prowess at all,” warned the academic.
Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) president, Obonolo Rahube, said frontline workers have been working under fatigue due to pressure from rising Covid-19 cases. He said like president Masisi and Minister Dikoloti admitted, the local public health sector is strained with limited resources, and as such BONU demands protection for the frontline workers.
“We demand that government should provide psychosocial support that was promised to us. We are also experiencing shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) on the ground. In addition, nurses are dealing with a deadly Delta variant and we want the issue of risk allowance addressed. Death toll among nurses is also rising just like among teachers,” exclaimed Rahube.
Rahube urged government to speed up vaccination of frontline health workers, adding that BONU wants jobless nurses to be re-employed to help in the vaccine rollout.
Addressing the nation on Tuesday, Masisi admitted that Covid-19 has had a severe impact on the country and it is very worrying.
“The situation of the pandemic will worsen before it gets better. Therefore we must take individual and collective responsibility to protect ourselves and the entire nation from COVID-19. We must brace ourselves for the imminent shortage of basic necessities, such as food and fuel, occasioned by disruptions of the supply chain in the region emanating from COVID-19 and its associated impact on the economy,” said Masisi, adding that government plans to have every citizen vaccinated by end of 2022.
Further, Masisi said government expects to receive 50 000 Mordena vaccines and at least 500 000 doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines respectively by December 2021.
By Thursday, Botswana had recorded 1 274 Covid-19 deaths as per the presidential task force update. Task force Coordinator Dr Kereng Masupu said the Delta variant was spreading fast across the country, which led to government suspending movement across zones with immediate effect.