The nation is at a crossroads. Death is in the air. There is a feeling of exasperation, a feeling of discontent sweeping across a panic-stricken nation. Loved ones are dying like flies.
COVID-19 has thrown the whole world into a state of despair. Botswana is also in the middle of that pandemonium, with the last few weeks particularly testing. Reports elsewhere in the global media painted a picture of a country facing its worst COVID-19 period. Some statistics showed Botswana right up at the upper echelons of the COVID-19 table. The government refuted the reports, with the Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe saying the country was well on course. When the pandemic first hit the local shores, there was collective admission the country was doing extremely well in containing the spread of the disease.
The infection and death rates were relatively low, right up to the end of December 2020. But since January, the country has experienced a deadly seven months, in which the virus has claimed more than 1,300 lives and left nearly 100,000 infected. President Mokgweetsi Masisi had calmed the nation in recent months, after assuring the country had procured sufficient vaccines to inoculate the entire adult population. But despite being among the top performers in the region in the vaccination programme, there is an overriding feeling the process is way too slow for a small population like Botswana’s. Some vaccine deliveries are expected at the end of December, while the vaccination of the entire adult population is only expected to be achieved by the end of next year. It could drag deep into 2023, judging by the scarcity of vaccines on the global market.
The rich have been accused of hoarding, but Africa should also take time to look itself in the mirror after failing, thus far, to produce a single drop of the vaccine. It is inexcusable that years after most African countries gained independence from their colonisers; there is no single laboratory capable of producing a COVID-19 vaccine.
We are at the mercy of the capitalists, and we cannot blame them. Masisi has called for patience, as the arms are ready but the vaccines are slow to arrive. The government has initiated several interventions to fight COVID-19, some of which have not been well received. The agitation is growing in some quarters, with the recent alcohol ban and ivermectin debate clear indicators of a nation in the middle of an emotional crisis. But it is during the time of a crisis that sober minds are needed.