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Parties take a stand on corona

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On 11 March, the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic.

Despite this, the virus has since gone on to claim thousands of lives, with the majority of the casualties occurring in the western world.

In light of this, and with the virus rapidly spreading across South Africa, this week Cyril Ramaphosa and his government called an emergency 21-day lock-down, which comes into effect on Thursday (26th March).

Although no-one has tested positive for the virus in Botswana yet, the country remains on high alert.

The Voice’s DANIEL CHIDA engaged party leaders to find out what they believe needs to be done to prevent the virus from spreading to Botswana.

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Head of Communications: Moeti Mohwasa

This situation requires total mobilisation, cooperation, selflessness and true leadership. We can make it as a nation if we are united and disciplined.

Aggressive measures need to be put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Fortunately, up to now, there has not been any reported cases of the virus in the country.

This, however, does not mean that there are no cases as the viruses could stay in the body for sometime before signs are exhibited.

Our actions today will determine what will happen tomorrow.

We can learn from the experience of those who did not take prompt action to deal with this scourge.

Due to limited Intensive Care Units (ICU)s and the already stretched health facilities and personnel, we need to be much more proactive in preparing ourselves for the virus.

These two are among the determining factors of the death rate.

We cannot stop the spread of the virus, but we can manage it if we keep the rate of infection within the capacity of our health facilities.

We should prepare an army of health professionals, including those who are unemployed for any eventuality.

As the UDC, we call upon the government to engage the political, business, workers, religious, sport and other leaders to come up with a common and harmonious strategy to deal with this situation.

There should be provision of free masks and gloves accompanied by sanitisation of public places.

We should embark on immediate and extensive testing of our people for early detection and determination of the extent of the scourge.

Staying at home helps deal with control of infections but what about those who stay in crowded conditions at all times?

Measures have to be put in place to protect our people, the majority of whom are poor, in the event we have a total lock-down.

They will be hard-hit as they go home to empty pantries every evening, prompting them to go out every morning in search of something to eat.

We call upon the government to come up with a coordinated and comprehensive economic stimulus to benefit SMMEs and workers, not leaving out the vulnerable groups like the disabled who have a history of being marginalised and excluded.

An independent structure, totally not biased in favour of the politically connected big business, should be put in place to oversee and monitor the stimulus package.

All these efforts and many others would require the presence and supervision of the Head of State, who unfortunately we are told is now quarantined and not fully available to deal with the challenge we are facing.

It is regrettable and very unfortunate that the President decided – at a time when he was needed most – to leave the country.

He not only deserted the nation that looked up to him to shepherd sheep, but broke the very rules he set for state officials, that there should be no international travel; thereby failing to lead by example. This has led the country to have a present but absent president.

Secretary General of Alliance for Progressives (AP): Phenyo Butale

South Africa took an absolutely correct decision, and there is no choice in the circumstances. Human life comes before everything.

Phenyo Butale

Our region is so integrated that even though we have no known case, we have to do what is necessary to enforce what we already have in place.

Some of our people are still entertaining gatherings of more than 100 people. AP is concerned about ensuing economic ramifications globally, which will adversely affect our economy, particularly the more vulnerable.

So, as per our policy address on Thursday, we call on government to engage and finalise preliminary fiscal response interventions to mitigate effects on the lives of so many of our people.

President of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD): Sidney Pilane;

I have studied the statement by President Ramaphosa in which he exempted essential services – and goods – such as the production of food and other necessities, which will continue as before the lock-down.

Sidney Pilane

A few of our entry points with South Africa remain open to enable trade to continue and necessary travel by our respective citizens to continue.

So, the lock-down will affect us very little, and I can think that we may lose some South African tourists and the passing trade of travellers to Botswana.

I have also followed and carefully studied the response of the Botswana government to the crisis that we face.

They are reasonably satisfactory, with one glaring exception; there is no public education programme being implemented.

Written statements and occasional statements in the media by the President, the Office of the President and by the Ministry of Health are far from satisfactory.

We need an intense and sustained publicity blitz that reaches all Batswana, one similar to that of HIV AIDS, to enable all Batswana to become aware of the depth of the crisis that faces the country because coronavirus is coming to Botswana, however long it takes.

I saw a statement by the Police Service demanding compliance with restrictions and making threats.

That is the wrong tone. I suspect that the BDF may also be deployed. We do not want Botswana to become a police state.

We will be watching closely how law enforcement deals with this, and it is my hope that they will exercise appropriate restraint. We will not accept police state tactics.

Compliance with restrictions – something with which we all agree – is best achieved by a proper programme of extensive and sustained public education and not force. The more the education, the less will be the need for enforcement by law enforcement.

Government has decided to go it alone. This is a national crisis and should be owned by all of us and not just the government.

This is the only way the entire nation can take responsibility.

The role of the government is to provide leadership, but not to exclude the nation in that leadership.

This is not a partisan matter.A complete lock-down is the best guarantor of a minimum spread of this silent, invisible enemy which is waging guerrilla warfare on the world. A lock-down requires a lot of money.

Government has a budget for its employees to 31st March, 2021 and can afford to pay them.

Not so with workers in the private sector. Most businesses in Botswana are small scale.

A lock-down means they are not earning revenue and income, are not selling, are unable to pay rent, employees who are not at work, and are unable to meet their other costs. Their employees who will be at home cannot survive without income.

Shops will be affected as they may not have enough consumers to sell to.

The economy could collapse. A meltdown could occur such as happened in Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

Government must have plans in place to prevent this happening. We need to know what the Government plans to approach these possibilities.

*Unfortunately, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) had not responded to our reporter’s questionnaire at the time of going to press.

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Politics

HE’s trip raises temperatures

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HE's trip raises temperatures

On Tuesday morning, President Mokgweetsi Masisi flew to Harare for an Extraordinary Summit of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.

HE was invited by the current SADC Chairperson, Emmerson Mnangagwa, with the Zambian and Mozambique Presidents, Edgar Lungu and Filipe Nyusi also in attendance.

According to Office of the President, it was decided that a face-to-face meeting was necessary considering the sensitivity of the issues up for discussion.

However, this did not go down well with many Batswana, who labeled the trip unnecessary and accused Masisi of failing to lead by example.

Having already been quarantined twice, although it only lasted a day, the Zimbabwe trip means Masisi is now set for a third 14-day stint in quarantine.

The Voice Staffer, DANIEL CHIDA talked to various leaders and political analysts to get their take on Masisi’s foreign escapades.

HE's trip raises temperatures
Moeti Mohwasa – UDC Head of Communications

While the UDC acknowledges and appreciates the importance of international cooperation, it is disturbed by the President’s inability to balance that with the threat that international travel poses to the nation’s health and in particular the outbreak and control of Covid-19. Our President currently ranks high amongst the leaders who have breached or disregarded the rules they have set for their people!

It is unfortunate that our leader prefers to always hide in quarantine at a time when we need his visibility in the fight against Coronavirus.

In the light of the current situation it would have been prudent for President Masisi to participate through Zoom or Skype.

This would have sent a strong message about his full commitment to the fight against the virus.

We need leaders who don’t just say ‘do as I say’ but also lead by example.

What Masisi is saying to the nation is that you can just breach the Covid-19 regulation as you wish as long as you are prepared to be subjected to 14-day quarantine. This is wrong.

HE's trip raises temperatures
Biggie Butale – BPF President


These Presidential trips to Corona-challenged countries in the middle of a crisis seem to indicate a President with mixed priorities.

We have lost our CEO for 42-days due to him being unnecessarily quarantined during Botswana’s greatest ever hour of need.

I wonder what would have happened if we could have been without the Director of Health for this long although the President is a higher decision maker.

Maybe his presence or absence is immaterial?

Perhaps the question to ask is why the President feels it absolutely urgent to attend meetings that are not life-and-death matters whilst leaving life-and-death matters in his own backyard?

Could it be we have the absolutely wrong person as CEO who does not understand that we as a country might be entering an apocalyptic period of our existence?

Could it be that he is running away from the pressure? Could it be that he is just overwhelmed?

Kebapetse Lotshwao – Political Analyst
Ideally, the President should not be going to Zimbabwe.

However, the realities on the ground dictate that he goes.

The first reality is the fact that Botswana is the incoming chair of SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.

As incoming chair, Botswana has to work closely with the current and previous chairs.

Secondly, there are threats to peace and stability in the region, particularly in Mozambique and Lesotho.

These threats have to be resolved, and by their sensitive nature may require face-to-face discussion to avoid infiltration.

HE's trip raises temperatures
Tobokani Rari – BOFEPUSU Secretary General


Truly speaking leaders should lead by example.

The standards set cannot be enforced for the ordinary citizens to the exception of those in positions of power; that would be terrible as this would mean they are some above the law.

Honestly I tried to listen to the reasons advanced by Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang to justify the President’s need to physically attend the Zimbabwe meeting, but I could not be convinced.

Elsewhere in Africa, South Africa to be specific, and President Ramaphosa suspended a Minister for breaking the Covid Protocol – that shows exemplary leadership!

HE's trip raises temperatures
Phenyo Butale – AP Secretary General


Governments all over the world have stopped movements to control the Coronavirus pandemic.

It would appear the government of Botswana has only done this in writing, as in practice they do the opposite.

Where pressing matters are/were to be discussed we have seen Heads of State using teleconferencing to conduct their meetings.

For instance, The East African Community has held several teleconference meetings about Covid-19 and other issues of concern.

The continental body, African Union (AU) has also been holding meetings and conducting its business, through teleconferencing facilities.

Just two weeks ago, President Masisi participated in a meeting of SADC leaders held via teleconference.

Further afield, the 46th G7 summit, which was scheduled to be held next month in Camp David, United States, will now be conducted by video conference.

It is worrisome that the President does not learn even from such a growing trend among world leaders and the global community.

We have in the recent past, communicated our displeasure on the President’s conduct of flouting with impunity the Covid-19 rules and regulations.

This continued violation of the regulations puts a strain on the efforts of officers charged with enforcing them.

Up to today, no one, not even the President himself, can adequately account for the Namibia trip save to say ‘it was for a damn good reason’.

For a Government that parrots 4IR [Fourth Industrial Revolution] at any given opportunity this is an embarrassing form of doublespeak.

We are concerned about the government’s growing reputation of saying one thing and doing the exact opposite.

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Politics

The back bench that came to the party

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The back bench that came to the party

MPs Healy, Greeff’s impressive input during (COVID 19) debate

After a successful 28 – day-extreme distancing protocol to curb the spread of the novel Corona Virus, President Mokgweetsi Masisi called another emergency parliamentary meeting this week for Members of Parliament to debate the motion on the affirmation of the Emergency Powers (COVID -19) (Amendment) (No.4) 2020 Regulations.

The Voice Staffer, DANIEL CHIDA followed the Boipuso Hall broadcast on national television and watched from the comfort of his home as the backbenchers put on a sterling performance.

Member of Parliament for Francistown West, Ignatius Moswaane and Mephato Reatile of Jwaneng Mabutsane were in their element as usual but it was the underdogs, Christian Greeff, of Gaborone Bonnington South and Tumisang Healy of Gaborone Central who took many by surprise with their impressive contributions to the debates.

The two have been too quiet in parliament before but below is what they said yesterday much to the delight of many.

The back bench that came to the party
CHRISTIAN GREEF

“My constituency is the most affected. Out of 15 974 households assessed, only 1 540 have been given food and this is not even 50% of the population of the constituency. The worst part is that majority of the people in places like Phase 4 and Block 9 were overlooked simply because their houses look decent. The constituency is dominated by informal sector being taxi and cab drivers, driving schools and vendors and it will be a good idea to open up for them to start their operations within COVID-19 protocols because by so doing we would offload the burden of social welfare provision from government. Our electricity tariff has also gone up and donating food only is not enough and therefore I call on the President to intervene concerning that.”

The back bench that came to the party
TUMISANG HEALY

“I am against the idea of people having to foot their own hotel quarantine bills as part of the amendments have suggested. This would be a major setback in fighting this virus because we have been doing very well so far with government catering to the needs of the sick and suspected patients. It would be best if we continue with the system that we have in place as it has given us positive results so far. Since we have been encouraging people to work from home, there should be provisions of laptops in their hampers to assist with that. I am also against the idea of food distribution but suggest that we credit money into COVID 19 debit cards for people to buy groceries for themselves.


My constituency has complied with lockdown restrictions very well so I suggest that we relax some of the restrictions a bit and allow the sale of alcohol. Bottle Stores should be allowed to trade and deliver to their clients. Alcohol is consumed by adults. I therefore expect them to be responsible to make better decisions for their own safety. Regarding the opening of businesses, it will be helpful to have Safety Health and Environment (SHE) officer to monitor and make sure that all the required procedures are adhered to. SHE officers should be the ones helping in taking temperatures of customers and making sure clients are wearing masks and keeping their hands clean. However, I thank government for recognising the disabled people and exempting them from all the COVID- 19 protocol requirements.”

The back bench that came to the party
IGNATIOUS MOSWAANE

“We have to come up with a timeline for all food hampers to be distributed. We cannot have people locked in their homes for five weeks without food and pretend that everything is going accordingly. I want to notify this house, especially Minister Molale (Local Government and Rural Development) that his officers are not giving him a true picture of what is happening on the ground. We have an acute shortage of social workers and this makes the process of assessing and distributing food very slow. Another issue that needs to be solved is the dispute between landlords and tenants as there has been no clear picture on what is going to happen during this time. Informal sector has been left out too and it is time we introduced a grant to assist small and medium enterprises to recover from the adverse effects of COVID 19.

The back bench that came to the party
MEPHATO REAETILE

“I have a problem with how the zones were demarcated because most of the workers from Jwaneng Mine commute from Kanye and it will mean applying for a permit all the time as they will be travelling from one zone to another everyday. Our President should advise landlords that by not collecting rentals, they would have contributed to the COVID-19 Fund like other businesses. I also ask that after the 8th to 15th phase of the lockdown, we must do away with zones and allow free movement.”

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