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Dissecting the effects of lockdown

On Friday evening, Government announced that Greater Gaborone would return to lockdown at midnight.

The decision was a precautionary measure after it emerged there were 12 probable cases of Covid-19 in the area.

Although the lockdown proved short-lived and was lifted on Monday, the lack of notice at which it was called took many by surprise.

It created uncertainty amongst the business community and indeed the country in general, making it incredibly difficult to plan ahead.

On Wednesday morning, the Covid Task Force cancelled its usual morning update, causing widespread speculation that another lockdown was imminent.

Amid the confusion, The Voice Staffer, DANIEL CHIDA spoke to different people to get their views on the effects of lockdown on the country.

Botho Seboko: Executive Director, BOCONGO

The long-term effects of Covid-19 are as wide as the arrays of life-defining human life.

For Botswana, this is a scary movie brought to life.

You will remember Botswana’s Economy has failed to create industries that can relieve both the mining and tourism sector in times like these and there is no indication that we are learning any need for self-reliance in times of disasters such as this one.

The long-term effects will be mostly felt by the middle class who have either taken pay cuts and are at the edge of losing their jobs, which are at the moment protected by the instructions for the SOE.

This is so because their vehicle loans and mortgages are attached to their monthly salaries.

Worse than the middle class will be the poor, the women and children who largely form part of the informal sector – the hardest hit by these sporadic lockdowns.

Agribusinesses are suffering; the transport industry is on its deathbed, particularly ones in the cross-border tourism sector.

All this cumulatively indicates that with no resilience evidence on our economy, all sectors will struggle into the future of uncertainty. Our sector, the NGO sector, with our international donors battling Covid in their own countries, and Government of Botswana single handily enjoying domestic resource mobilisation, NGOs are doomed.

Diba Diba: Chairman of Law Society

The economy is and has already been badly affected. Our economy’s mainstay is diamonds and tourism. The sale of diamonds is not possible at the moment. The tourism sector is closed. This is going to have serious effect on our country.

Some companies, even those owned by the government, are reported to already be failing to pay their employees. Soon companies might close down and jobs will be lost.

It is bleak. However, I think, the pandemic has given us an opportunity to recalibrate our economy with an aim to be more self-reliant, to adopt deliberate policy and legal positions to empower citizens to play a more meaningful, if not leading, role in the economy.

I also believe that it has exposed weaknesses in the provision of public services, especially in areas such as public health and education. These have to be improved significantly!

See how, for example, our government has been running around schools to construct basic amenities which should have always been there in the first place.

I think the biggest effect of the pandemic is that going forward, citizens will be more conscious of whom they vote to lead them.

They will scrutinize political players more critically to determine if what they are promising meets with their minimum expectations. And they will hold them to account.

Lastly, our disaster management system will always have to be on point.

As regards our courts, cases which were scheduled over the lockdown period have to be rescheduled.

Some of these have been pending in the system for years.

This means more delay to the cases and the parties involved.

It might be very expensive to deal with the backlog.

Obakeng Matlou: Entrepreneur (Brand Strategist), Dikgosi Media

The first lockdown was welcome for all intents and purposes. What was not was the badly conceived second round of the latter.

Why am I miffed about it? This is because while persistence in the imposition of endless lockdowns may be helpful as far as being able to prevent our healthcare systems from crumbling or becoming overwhelmed by the sick, the trade-off is graver, in that it leaves the economy completely ailing.

OBAKENG MATLOU

Persistence with lockdown will snowball into other unfortunate situations.

If the citizens are kept shacked in the homes, not only will there be devastation socially, but also negative ramifications economically. This would wreak havoc, especially for SMMEs.

Recently, I was rudely awakened to horrifying statistics from Minister of Nationality, Immigration, and Gender Affairs, Anna Mokgethi that during lockdown alone, over 132 defilement cases were recorded as a result of lockdown, surely this can’t be sustained, a matter of fact, we should be concerned.

It is incontrovertible that all businesses were hurt by the first lockdown because most businesses weren’t prepared and therefore had no plans to continue operating during the lockdown.

Such businesses are on the brink of collapse. Should another lockdown be administered, job losses will be inevitable as that would be tantamount to rubbing salt to an already dire unemployment reality.

Families and businesses would be decimated by any more lockdowns.

I’d strongly caution those leading the fight against Covid-19 to have that as the last, and not first resort to any imminent threat as the alternative is far grimmer.

Caesar Tshupelo: Business Botswana Construction Sector Chairman

The Covid-19 pandemic has heavily impacted the built environment and construction globally and Botswana was no exception.

All operations in the construction industry were halted when the lockdown was enacted from the 2 April that ended on the 7 May. But there was nothing the industry could do but to abide by the set Covid-19 protocols.

The pandemic has taught us that we need to re-think how we do things post Covid-19, both the contractors and professionals in the built environment.

CAESAR TSHUPELO

One of the most compliant matters was around Occupational, Safety and Health as being a key integral part of the construction industry and the employment of Safety Health and Environnement (SHE) professionals in our construction sites.

The architects, planners, interior designers, and engineers, will have to re-think the way we design spaces in the future from the lessons learned from Covid-19.

A new way of communications for holding meetings will have to be changed from the traditional sit-in meetings and utilise the digital platforms and move for virtual meetings. Only site inspections will need physical bodies to be present.

Collaborations between procuring entities (clients) and all stakeholders in infrastructure projects are to be the norm going forward in all future works and contracts.

The wanting aspect that is lacking was capacity building and Entrepreneurial mentorship especially our citizen-owned companies.

Certain reforms are very much needed to make for a very adaptable industry that will be ready for future pandemics.

A lot of emphasis on research and innovation is needed in the construction industry and the adoption of green sustainable technologies for Sustainable Development Goals.

The training of professionals in the construction industry would need to be aligned with the visions of the new norms that have been created by the post Covid-19 thought processes.

Companies will need to mentor the young graduates, youths, women and people living with disabilities.

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