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A Crisis That Demands Decisive Action

Fuel pumps have run dry across the country, plunging the nation into a new crisis, in the middle of a fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19).

It is the manner in which the crisis unfolded, which has stocked anger amongst locals. 

When the first signs of a looming shortage surfaced, the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security permanent secretary, Mmetla Masire was defiant, maintaining there was no crisis.

This was contrary to the situation obtaining on the ground. It reminds one, although at a lower scale, of Iraqi’s late communication minister, Comical Ali, a defiant character even when scales were tipped heavily against the government’s side.

While Masire was addressing the nation on Botswana Television (Btv) queues were growing longer, but the government official insisted panic buying was behind the shortage. In other words, it was an artificial shortage.

But since that Saturday afternoon more than two days later, the situation has rather gotten flammable. The liquid has become scarce, with patience running thin. The government released six million litres from its strategic reserves, as a way to cushion against the shortages.

However, the crisis has exploded, and now motorists spend endless hours in queues.

Masire is now dumbfounded after he had promised the nation the crisis was a passing moment, induced by panic buying.

He is no longer

assuring or inspiring confidence as a potentially crippling strike looms in South Africa. Some refineries in the neighbouring country are down, and supplies have been adversely impacted. With production impeded in South Africa, inevitably, the crisis would roll over to Botswana, meaning more dark days lie ahead. The parallel market is now thriving, which would only exacerbate an already desperate situation. The government appears to be losing grip with each drying pump.

At first the shortages were attributed to panic buying, then the challenges South Africa is facing due to the refineries, which broke down.

In between, there was a collision as Masire had attributed to delays in deliveries to the COVID-19 tests drivers are subjected to. But the COVID-19 Task Force team swiftly dismissed the claim.

In times of a crisis, heroes are born and, equally, villains emerge. It is in this moment that the nation is looking up to its leadership, not for vague and ambiguous statements, but firm and decisive action. It is not a Comical Ali moment, but a time to come out, reassure a restive nation, as the situation has clearly slipped out of hand.


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