Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers are expected to table a request to have the State of Emergency (SOE) extended, as the six-month provision comes to an end early next month.
Legislators are said to be lobbying to see the period extended in a bid to enable government to continue fighting the coronavirus.
Mmegi has learnt that already some backbenchers are pushing others for the motion to be tabled next Tuesday at the party’s caucus.
“The members want the extension to be done before the current lockdown comes to an end,” a highly placed source within the party said.
“They are proposing that SoE be extended by three or six months. The reason why we want an extension is the rate at which the virus is spreading because of local transmission which is now hitting us hard.
“We cannot control the spread of the disease if there is no SoE. The President should have certain powers so that some of the issues are attended to, without having to follow certain procedures that may take time, especially when it comes to procurement of goods for health.”
BDP chief whip, Liakat Kablay, said even though backbenchers have not yet approached him about the matter, he was aware that some have started lobbying on the issue.
“I am one of the MPs that will support the issue. The BDP is the one ruling this country and if we fail to control the disease, the opposition parties will be the first ones to make an issue of it. “This disease is now growing everyday and nothing can be done without SoE. We need to give the President the powers so that he can take certain decisions that he believes could help the nation fight this virus.
“The country already has high numbers of the disease everyday and students are now becoming affected. This is one of the [most] painful times that the country is facing.
Again, some companies are even failing to stand with the country, many people are losing jobs, some cutting salaries for workers. Cabinet will reflect on how best companies can be assisted either by subsidy or other means,” Kablay said.
He added that the issue might
The chief whip said SoE will even help government to take action against companies that took the wage subsidy but failed to pay workers.
“It is so sad that some companies were assisted by banks and the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency, but they kept on retrenching workers. That is something bad.”
Political analyst at University of Botswana, Lesole Machacha supported the move, saying the SoE regulations had helped curb the spread of the pandemic. “If lifted, the possibility of cases increasing even more will be high and it is going to be difficult for government to control people,” he told Mmegi. “(Without the SoE) people will have rights and may hold government at ransom unnecessarily.
“SoE helps government from being taken to court when it wants to implement some of the regulations and again we should know that once it gets lifted, many people might lose jobs. “Due to the high number of cases that are being recorded every day, there is need that SoE be extended by [another] six months or more.”
The analyst said what is important is to save people’s lives and to allow Cabinet to take certain decisions that can help the people.
He said statistics have shown numbers of COVID-19 cases do increase when regulations are relaxed a bit, but if SoE is lifted, the number of cases could get worse.
Seeking the six-month SoE in April, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said Botswana was grappling with a rising number of confirmed cases.
He reasoned that Botswana’s best defence against COVID-19 was a ‘robust preventative strategy’.
The opposition unsuccessfully fought against the SoE, with Leader of Opposition, Dumelang Saleshando saying the reasons advanced by government were unsound.
Saleshando said State coffers would be looted during the SoE, claiming that he already was in possession of evidence showing that relatives of BDP members, including Masisi, were lined up to benefit from the emergency procurement protocols under the SoE.