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No further SoE extension, please

I listened with delight, to the Minister of Health and Wellness’ address Wednesday, on the COVID-19 vaccine roll out programme.

As the Director of Health Services correctly said, this is not our first experience with a nationwide immunisation effort. We have had many, and our health services personnel have always acquitted themselves with distinction, often under very difficult conditions. We owe them a debt of gratitude for keeping us safe this far, and pray that the Almighty guide them, and keep them safe, as they prepare to undertake the challenging task, with which they are now saddled. At a time as this, it is critical that the public interest must trump politics and other divisive considerations. The exercise requires all hands on deck. As Honourable Dikoloti said, the primary responsibility for the success of the effort, lies with you and me, as private citizens. I accept that, unconditionally.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s administration has brought us this far. For that, we are grateful. As with all nations around the world, we have lost lives, and we have lost money. We have paid with our liberties, and we have accepted that as a necessary tax for our survival. Whilst we might have different views on whether government has done good or bad in handling the epidemic, we can at the very least agree, that we are no worse off to even the most advanced and resourced countries around the world. Using that as a basic measure, we can well forgive the administration for any shortcomings in the effort. Better still, we can all agree that we have in our own private ways, in some cases, made the effort more difficult that it should have been. Many still wear masks below their noses. Many don’t observe social distancing and generally flout COVID-19 protocols. But, that is not what I am about, this week.

I am disturbed. Lately, there have been murmurings from senior ruling party leaders, about a further extension of the State of Public Emergency (SoE). I cannot agree. We don’t need it. I do not pretend we are out of the woods yet. I just believe it would be an overkill. We are approaching the nationwide vaccination stage, and that, is Dr Edwin Dikoloti and the Director of Health Services’ baby. The arguments that were given for the SoE in the beginning, are no longer relevant.  This stage can be left to the health services. The SoE must end. We can revert to the statutory powers of the Director of Health, to deal effectively with the vaccination effort. The people must be given back their liberties. Tell me if there is anything a further SoE can achieve, that the Director cannot do in the exercise of statutory powers?

As it is, public confidence is at its

lowest, in terms of the economic outlook. We are faced with an SoE of a different variety and that’s where we need the political leadership. It is one of a battered economy, household debt, massive unemployment, and near-empty public coffers. There is need for politicians to leave COVID-19 to health services workers – and yes, we have the best – and to focus on the damage. What we need is a task force for the economy and for jobs. BTV, must now begin new, even if parallel dialogue, on economic recovery and job creation. In the end, the ruling party will not be judged on how it defeated COVID-19, but about how it dealt with the damage.

Of course, the BDP backbench would endorse another SoE extension even if the President asked for a 100 years. You only have to hear vice president Slumber Tsogwane murmur it, to know that it is a done deal. There is no assembly of people, as spineless and as unpatriotic, as the ruling party backbench. Ninety percent of the lot do not deserve salutation with which they are addressed.

It cannot be right, for the President, however good his intentions, to rule by fiat for a period in excess of a year. With a longer SoE, we are corrupting the President.  The President will gradually develop an acquired taste for ruling by decree, if he hasn’t developed it already. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, so goes the saying. With every extension, the President is unlearning democracy, and accountability, and is developing an unhealthy acquaintance with ruling by fiat.

The same applies to his ministers, who exercise the powers thereof, on his behalf. We are desecrating our democracy. Going forward, the capacity to decree a curfew in the interest of public health, must lie with the Director of Health Services, in consultation with relevant stakeholders. It should not be a political decision.

I have said this before and I say it again. Like so many of my fellow citizens, I have lived through an epidemic far more savage than the one we are facing. The HIV and AIDS we are experiencing now, is not the one we lived through from the mid-eighties down to the end of the millennium. We have seen death and human suffering, at an apocalyptic scale. Our health personnel fought HIV and AIDS for nearly two decades without a vaccine. It took the harnessing of our collective energies and skills, as a nation to turn the tide, not a SoE. To suggest that unless the SoE abides, the nation would perish, is at the very least, dishonest and at the very most, fraudulent.

Chief On Friday

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Mr. Kennafela. What prompted you to be a politician?

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