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The public has a right to question the President’s judgement and that of the COVID-19 Task Team

KGOSIETSILE NGAKAAGAE
We are finally out of the second lockdown, which is a good thing.

Those of you who follow my commentary, would be aware of my utter unhappiness, with this singular decision. Likewise, you would be aware of my staunch support for government’s COVID-19, war effort. I want to thank government and the Presidential COVID-19 Task Team, for being responsive. True; there will be times when government must sail against the tide of popular opinion, or maintain a position in spite of the harshest criticism. But there are times when government must climb down, especially when its decisions are downright unjustifiable. The downfall of many an African government, has been to think that might is right, and to perceive those that differ with policies, as enemies or rabble rousers. Regrettably, this scenario, is often promoted by party apologists and opportunists. These are people who must be seen to be defending government, and who are yet to learn that truth, if often the best defence. In my field of study, you know when to plead guilty or not. Each case turns on its merits. Not so, for party apologists.

Experts, as in the COVID-19 Task Team, provide government with the necessary knowledge and skills for informed decision making. In the end, though, decisions such as whether or not to pronounce a lockdown, must be taken by the politicians; in our case, President Mokgweetsi Masisi. He cannot, and should not, be obliged to follow their advice, but simply to give it due weight. He has an obligation to consider same, as part of a broader enquiry. State of Emergency Powers were not given by Parliament to the Task Team. Same were given to him. Health, is only one of the factors that go into the melting pot. I would readily conceded that public health would be the single weightiest factor in the enquiry. But it should not, and cannot be, singularly decisive. As it is, that’s the only consideration we have had government talk about as justification for the lockdown. It was Minister Dr Lemogang Kwape’s duty to explain the lockdown. The CoVID-19 Task Team coordinator Dr Kereng Masupu was abused. How was he supposed to answer questions on the economy. The decision was political, even if it was medically advised.

Nothing typifies the above proposition, like the example set by John F. Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis. The American President strained under pressure from his decorated and esteemed Generals, for a preemptive strike on Russian nuclear installations. There was a genuine and imminent fear. America was facing an existential risk. The emergent situation required a decisive response and few would have argued with a need to go to war. There was a fear, that

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if the Russians would draw first blood, America would not have residual capacity for a nuclear counterstrike. President Kennedy, took into account the advice of his decorated and esteemed Generals. He maintained, however, that the last decision on the question would, however, be his. He did not, he insisted, want to act out of panic, and to lead America into what he called, a war by miscalculation. He declined, a preemptory strike and averted a nuclear collision the effects of which would have permanently altered the trajectory of world history. I refuse the reckless suggestion, that the health experts must have the final say in lockdown questions. I refuse same for the same reason that I refused Donald Trump’s suggestion that people can inject themselves with a disinfectant to kill the virus. It could be that the virus would be killed; but so would be the host. As it is, that is the very direction we are going.

There are instances where wrong decisions will be made with the best intentions. We don’t always squeal because we doubt the government or the COVID-19 Task Team’s, motives. Further, we do not complain because we doubt the competence of the experts. I have said it before, and I say it again; we owe an eternal debt of gratitude to these men of the COVID-19 Task Team (Don’t blame me, I don’t know if there are women in it. I haven’t seen them) for keeping us safe. They have done well and every person, not smarting under some blinding political prejudice, would readily appreciate that. Yet there are those who will seek to guilt trip us for questioning the justifications for the lockdown. They say we lack appreciation, and that we pretend to be more knowledgeable than experts.

Sorry, I personally make no apology in that regard. Well, in my field of study, I wake up every other morning to cross examine experts in their own fields of study. It is well within my field of study to do so. I am well within my lane. Sometimes experts live up to the bidding. Sometimes they fail dismally under cross examination. It is not uncommon to have two experts arguing over a matter of common expertise. No one should be beyond scrutiny just because they are experts. The fear, for our lives, should not be used to quash the views of those who question government’s motives. Take the ‘experts’ defence, elsewhere.

One of the key protections the Task Team needs, is protection from undue political pressure. In the end though, it is government, and not the Task Team, that decreed the lockdown.



Chief On Friday

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