On Monday evening, urged on by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, parliament voted in unanimous numbers (41 – 16) to extend the State of Public Emergency (SOPE) by a further six months.
Originally due to be lifted on 2 October, SOPE will now run until 3 April 2021, meaning Masisi will effectively have had unlimited powers for exactly a year.
In pushing for the extension, the President pointed out that SOPE was vital in containing the rapid spread of Coronavirus, which as he spoke stood at 1, 242 active cases with 16 deaths.
“SOPE allowed the government to put in place the communication mechanisms necessary for a pandemic of this magnitude and increase the uptake of the use of technologies by individuals, the private sector and Government. It ignited our creative reserves as a nation and provided opportunities for us to develop 14 innovative solutions to address the effects brought about by Covid-19,” outlined Masisi.
Although the vote was overwhelming, with the MPs that voted (one abstained and six were absent) doing so entirely along party lines, The Voice’s DANIEL CHIDA caught up with a few MPs to get contrasting views on the extension.
I wouldn’t say what failed but what we want to achieve on this SOPE.
The number of Covid-19 cases has gone up exponentially and this is not good for our country nor it’s citizens.
We are the most vulnerable as we are the 4th on HIV prevalence in the world.
It is estimated that 380, 000 Batswana are HIV positive – that’s 20.3 percent of the population!
The virus usually attacks the immune system making it compromised to fight against other diseases such as Covid-19.
Studies in the UK and RSA has indicated that people living with HIV are three times more likely to die from Covid-19 than those who do not have it.
Thus it’s important that the government does everything it can to protect its citizen from being overly exposed to Covid-19 infection.
President Masisi and his ruling party have failed dismally to provide an evaluation of the last six months SOPE, especially what it really achieved.
The six months SOPE asked and approved, like the previous one, lacks any empirical basis, it has not been scientifically substantiated!
The last SOPE achieved nothing but elite corruption on a grand scale.
This corruption occurs mainly through the direct appointment of companies in Covid-19 procurement.
The President himself has profited heavily from the SOPE.
During this period he has acquired shares in companies and has allocated himself a State Farm.
Companies owned by foreigners will make billions in eight or so water projects recently awarded by the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services. Batswana, as it is usually the case, are subsisting from the margins and only a few are eating crumbs from the wealth foreigners tables.
So this is not really the state of emergency but the state of looting from the fiscal.
SOPE detracts from our democracy because there’s no transparency and accountability.
SOPE failed to contain the spread of the virus, the cases are increasing.
A new strategy was needed but Masisi fell for the obvious, and repeating the same methods and expecting a different result.
The President has also tasted more powers under SOPE and he doesn’t want to be let go.
This is dangerous for the country.
There is only one objective and that is to retard the spread of the disease but unfortunately in the course of doing so, people’s Constitutional rights such as those under section 13, freedom of assembly and section 14, freedom of movement, are going to be encroached upon.
Just to restrict a man or a woman from traversing the zones without a permit is a serious encroachment.
To restrict him or her from crossing the border out and back unconditionally is very offensive to section 14.
The Constitution allows for the encroachment but it requires that there be a law with which to do so.
The Constitution itself does not encroach into the rights.
Emergency powers worldwide are meant to enable the temporary enactment of laws with which to encroach into these fundamental rights.
And this encroachment has to only be temporary because it is meant to deal with an occurrence which is not regular, one which occurs once in a century.
Covid-19 is not regular so it is unnecessary to enact on a permanent basis any law by which to encroach into people’s right to free movement and freedom of assembly.
There is nothing that we failed to achieve, we simply want to sustain our defence against the disease because it has itself not retreated.
On October 2nd 2020, the date by which the SOE would have terminated Covid-19 will have still not retreated.
It would then be remiss of us in that case to then down our weapons.
With respect, we enjoy a measure of success because in the past six months, although the disease did manage to penetrate our defence lines, it did not do so with as great rapidity as it will have been the case if we had given up and abandoned emergency powers.
There are two options.
Either we stand down with emergency powers and lay in wait to see what the disease does or we draw lessons from those countries which have been hit hard by it and take preventive measures ahead to preserve ourselves.