A Political and Administrative Studies lecturer at University of Botswana (UB), Dr Adam Mfundisi, has warned that the tenure of the State of Public Emergency (SoPE) has led to loss of trust in the Executive arm of government, overseen by President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
He said the SoPE, which Botswana finally exited last week after 18 months, was characterised by lack of transparency and accountability. According to Dr Mfundisi, Masisi and BDP MPs supported the SoPE under the guise of inadequacies in the Public Health Act in promulgating necessary emergency powers to deal with the pandemic. “When the President decided that the SoPE is to end on 1st October 2021, he did not proactively promote the introduction of reforms to the said Act to beef it up to deal with Covid 19 pandemic and other future emergencies. The failure to bring to Parliament legislative proposal to revamp the Public Health Act is an indication of rhetoric and lies advanced during the SoPE debate. It has become apparent that SoPE was not introduced to contain, control and mitigate the effects of Covid 19 crisis but for other covert objectives best known to its proponents.What we witnessed during SoPE was massive corruption and maladministration perpetrated by the Office of the President and other agencies of Government,” he opined.
Dr Mfundisi said power is like honey, and therefore it corrupts the people perpetually. “They still want any excuse to reintroduce it and citing the same arguments they proffered at the inception of SOE. Some of BDP members may not have benefitted from the SOE and would like it reintroduction to enrich themselves and their families. I suspect the rivalries and conflict within the BDP may have been influenced by inequity in the distribution of the SOE proceeds. SOE was never meant to fight Covid 19 as explained by its failure to deal effectively with the pandemic,” he said.
MP for Francistown West, Ignatius Moswaane said Masisi should have returned to Parliament over ending the SoPE as it is the proper forum that introduced it. He accused Masisi of overlooking Parliament like he just did. “The President got the approval of SoPE from Parliament and he should have gone back to it and account to us rather than rushing to state media and sugar coating everything. If he really didn’t mean to use it for personal gain, he must respect Parliament which he came three times to request for SoPE. We need accountability,” he fumed.
In addition, Moswaane said there has been wrong priorities during SoPE era. He said it is very disturbing that most of the Covid-19 jabs secured by Botswana Government are donations. “We are not convinced that the suppliers or countries that manufacture vaccines were not forthcoming in selling vaccines to us. It is surprising that donated vaccines are coming fast. How can suppliers be reluctant to supply for paid vaccines?” he asked, rhetorically.
BDP parliamentary Chief Whip, Liakat Kablay said it was not necessary for Masisi to convene the parliament when he announced the end of SOE berating the opposition for being always negative.
He said the president was given emergency powers by parliament but accounted on the SOE last week. “It will be just waste of resources for us to have gone back to parliament for president to tell us and the nation at large that he doesn’t need extension. SOE has saved us a lot and it will be on a standby should the need arise that it be effected. Masisi must be celebrated for his effort,” he said.
In addition, Kablay said there has been no misappropriation of funds by government during SOE. That being the case, the veteran Letlhakeng- Lephephe MP said corruption claims are not valid.
Meanwhile, Dr Mfundisi said corruption and secrecy perpetrated by the Executive branch of government has exposed the people’s lives to risk leading high mortality and hospitalization. He said the prospects are that data and information on Covid 19 infections and death were either over reported or underreported depending on the adopted strategies of the executive.
“Public confidence and trust on the Government and its operatives waned considerably. Lack of transparency and accountability exacerbated the erosion of trust in the system. The utilization of the direct appointment for procurement and awarding of tenders dampened level of people’s confidence in government. Individuals and companies of people closer to the Executive were awarded tenders which attracted exorbitant returns,” added the UB political science lecturer.
Also, he said SOE worsened poverty, unemployment, inequality, and general deprivation of population. No new health infrastructure was built, no acquisition of the necessary PPEs, lack of oxygen and ventilators needed to save lives. The President and Government pursued a lavish business deals including the acquisition of properties worth the millions of Pula amidst the ravaging Covid 19 pandemic. Resources misallocation worsened the spread and effect of Covid 19 on the population. Covid 19 high mortality could have been avoided had the government had its priorities right,” he buttressed.
Moswaane concurred with Mfundisi that corruption has been rife and it will tarnish Masisi image. According to him, government was irresponsible to have used direct appointment on tenders. He further said the acquisition of Tautona Lodge in Ghanzi for P58 million was reckless whilst the citizens have been negatively affected by the pandemic with the job losses on rise post SOE. “It doesn’t make sense and it raises eyebrows how the BDP government bought a lodge that its owner has never advertised. We are shocked how the BDP government came to know that its member is selling the lodge. This are the SOE negative gains that will haunt the BDP,” he added.
Kablay said both legacy of Masisi and the ruling BDP can’t be damaged by opposition propaganda. According to him, the opposition block collectively opposed SOE at its initial introduction and even today when it is brought to an end continue to criticize Masisi, hence labelling opposition as cry- babies.
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