Time to be decisive: Let's reset the COVID-19 war effort

When our current President came face to face with the virus, he sought to personally own the war effort. That’s where things went wrong. People who had experience in community mobilisation, for example, wondered why the President was reinventing the wheel instead of simply leveraging onto existing structures.

A standing battle hardened army, was discarded for an army of recruits, and COVID-19 was converted into a reality show. I cannot remember a single celebrity medical practitioner of the HIV-AIDS, era. But COVID-19 has produced as many TV celebrities, as dead bodies.

Mogae, for example, never sought glory in the war effort. People were dying, and he knew they had to be saved. He kept his eyes on the ball, not on himself.

It’s hard saying these things. Somehow you wish everything was working fine. No one wants to denigrate President Masisi. But we face the pitiless logic of facts. The war effort has backfired spectacularly. It has backfired because it was turned into a looting fest. Masks were sold at P600 a unit. Town Mayors supplied relief essentials, and tenders were given to close family of those in power. President Masisi had hoped to replicate former president Mogae’s success without following, or learning from his example.

Sadly, things have gone south. They have gone south, not because we don’t have skilled people amongst us for the job. I believe Dr. Masupu, Prof. Mosepele and their charges are eminently qualified. Things have gone south, because we lacked political leadership.

How did we overlook the need for just one, extra facility? How did we overlook the need for capacitation, after two extensions of the State of Emergency (SOE)? We have gone through two successive waves of the virus, and we came out, no wiser. Surely, buying vaccines was no capacitation.

When the SOE was first sought, there was no vaccine in the market. So, delays in vaccine arrivals are a pretext. Now the money is gone, and the people are dying. The nation is in fear. The nation is grieving. And the nation is angry. Never has public frustration been so palpable. Never in my 45 years of life, and living through three Presidents, have I seen our people lose faith so quickly in their leadership.

But we can wail over our situation all we can. I doubt it is of any use now. The government is practically at wits end. Pride, and political cost, would not allow them to acknowledge failure, even if upwardly they may be conscious of it. But it may well be time to “reset”, the Covid war effort. Truth be told, we have no choice. 

The current wave has exposed what we have been running, which was no more than a reality show. It has shown us we are still at March, 2020. I mean, being such a sparsely populated country, we are second in the world with regards to transmission. Worse than the overcrowded cities of the world which hold millions more, with less resources.  The Task Force must accept their efforts have not been successful, to put it midly. I have no doubt they did their best. Their best simply, was not good enough. It’s not that they aren’t qualified in their respective callings. They lost the plot, on account of poor political leadership. President Masisi’s experiment, has failed.  We must set up the temporary hospitals, as a matter of urgency. December is far away for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine promise to be of any comfort. We must manufacture the beds locally, through an all out effort harnessing all available skills.  True we may not have the diagnostic technology that comes with treatment and such will have to be procured externally, where possible. But we must audit our capacities, and look inwardly for what we can do in the shortest possible time and do it. With depleted means, it’s time for self reliance, as far as the circumstances permit.  Yes, there are less resources, but the nation must be saved. It’s time for a second round donation effort and sad as it may sound, for a year pay cut across all sectors. Everyone must take a pay cut, as a temporary measure.

It’s fair to say that the nation is already overtaxed,  but this is an existential threat we are facing. The obvious concern would of course be as to whether the money will not be looted again, but that’s a logistical issue. As everybody takes a pay cut, service providers like private schools must also be forced to lower their fees. Rentals will be adjusted pro rata, and frozen, and banks must be forced to do likewise.

We must achieve in three to six months, what we failed to achieve in 16 months. We need money for the technology, and for oxygen, and for other drugs that assist people to recover. We need more ambulances and must convert part of the existing government, and parastatal fleet to that end. That’s what a SoE is about.

Let’s rather be short, in other areas.

We must reprioritise again, and cut further on development and recurrent expenditure to free up resources to keep our people alive. More projects must take the chop, and those that can wait, must be delayed.

And yes, I always believed government got it wrong on the alcohol ban. It was a silly, emotional decision. To dissuade people, more levy out to have been extracted for the COVID-19 effort. Right now, all that levy goes to the bootleggers while the COVID19 war cheat lies empty. So let’s return achohol and put five to 10% more levy, this time ensuring strict enforcement of conditions, and prohibitive fines and sanctions.

We must have at least one basic, credible PPE manufacturer, in partnership with government. That must be someone prepared to set up locally with assurance of procurement, not thugs of the Fenghue variety.  They should be able to set up at their own cost, in the shortest possible time. The list is not exhaustive. When we have mobilised in the above regard, hopefully in the month of December, we can have two weeks of business lockdown when every citizen not yet vaccinated would be compelled to take a jab, and our people can live.

Editor's Comment
A Call For Government To Save Jobs

The minister further shared that from the 320 businesses that notified the Commissioner of Labour about their plans to retrench, 20 were acceded to, which resulted in 204 workers being retrenched during April 2020 and July 2021.The retrenchments were carried out while the SoE was in place, meaning the companies that succeeded must have had solid reasons, despite the strict SOE regulations imposed on businesses to not retrench. We are left with...

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