President deserves same protection of privacy as accorded other citizens – Leagajang
Some nations, like Great Britain, would not hesitate to release information on the condition of their president’s health.
However, Botswana will not entertain any questions from the media about President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s health, the government has said.
Press secretary to the president, Batlhalefi Leagajang, made the above assertion when he was asked on Wednesday to confirm or deny allegations that President Masisi was unwell.
Quizzed on how the president was doing and why he has been low key in the middle of a raging covid-19 pandemic, Leagajang said, “I am not aware of any law that mandates disclosure of His Excellency’s health details.”
Leagajang went on further to explain that, “His Excellency the President is an individual in his own right, deserving the same protections of privacy as accorded other citizenry. My inclination is to remind you of the default rule among health care providers that they may not disclose a patient’s health information; otherwise, I would refer you to them.”
The Press Secretary to the president, however, highlighted that his refusal to comment on a private matter concerning the first citizen did not mean that he was confirming that the president was sick, adding that Masisi has been on leave for a while now.
“My reservation to comment on such private details of the individual person of the presidency should not denote confirmation of your allegations, whatsoever,” he said before indicating Government will not entertain any more queries on the subject.
Meanwhile, information reaching The Voice from the president’s inner circle had suggested that Masisi has not been well since December 2020.
According to a highly placed source, Masisi’s health deteriorated sometime at the beginning of December. The condition (revealed to this publication) apparently took a turn for the worst largely because of his demanding schedule, the source further claimed.
“ H.E is constantly in serious pain, his condition worsened towards the end of last year. I guess the strain that comes from his position got its toll on him,” the source close to Masisi shared.
Is the Government obligated to disclose the state of the president’s health to the public or not?
The Voice newspaper asked former Government spokesperson, Jeff Ramsay, and an attorney at law, Uyapo Ndadi, to elucidate.
Ramsay explained that there is nothing in the law that compels the Government to reveal the health condition of a president.
He, however, notes that it is not an ideal situation.
Ramsay told The Voice that indeed during his tenure there were times he had to tell the nation he knew nothing about a leader’s deteriorating health while he knew otherwise.
“If you talk of mandated, Government) is not mandated to share the health condition of the President. We don’t have that law in our country even though in some countries there is more openness. We certainly haven’t been doing that,” Ramsay said.
The former spokesperson was of the opinion that it would be helpful for the government to at least share the general condition without going into details.
“While the public does not necessarily need to know the details, it would be helpful for the government to be as transparent as it can be. We do not necessarily have to know the nature of the illness. If rumours are not addressed, they can turn out to be something else,” opined Ramsay.
Prominent lawyer, Uyapo Ndadi, said the president has the right to privacy like any other person but unlike an ordinary citizen, his rights are limited because of the position and power that he holds.
“The nation would expect to know when the President is unwell and when he has fully recovered so that they can even put in their prayers, however, the nation is not entitled to know the exact details of the condition that the President might be battling with.
“I would expect that if the president is well the nation should be assured that he is fit for duty. If the president, against the backdrop of rumours that he is unwell, is well, the OP should outrightly assure the nation that he is well,” said Ndadi.