In the month of March, 2020, both sides of the August house were united on the existence of a Public Emergency.
COVID-19, a virtually unknown virus, was at our doorstep. Western media beamed to us in Africa, images of an apocalyptic time halfway across the globe. Populations, were being decimated, and corpses were being sent to graveyards without reference to relatives. There was no cure. It felt like the world, was coming to an end. There was terror, even in the bravest hearts. We all agreed with government, on the curtailment of our liberties, in our collective interest. A people spoilt with democracy and freedoms, had to come to terms with the reality of home imprisonment, enforced by men and women, in uniform.
Of course, both sides differed on how the emergency should be dealt with. The opposition argued for the strengthening of the Public Health Act. The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) caucus had already agreed on the declaration of a State of Public Emergency (SoE). The executive dominated BDP Parliament had their way as usual, and for the second time, in recent memory, democracy was suspended. The nation was placed, under a constitutional dictatorship. Six months later, the same government would push again, in Parliament that the President be allowed to rule by decree for a further six months. A further six months on, they are refusing to give power back to the people. They have been corrupted by power. Power corrupts, someone said. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
More than two million people, residents of what was not so long ago Africa’s furthest democratic frontier, now live in a de-facto dictatorship, where their President, can decide when they wake up and/or sleep, all in between sips of coffee. To his credit, there have been few if any reports of human rights abuses. But, in this period, at least P2,5 billion worth of public funds, has been spent, as emergency COVID-19 funding, with no public accountability. Those in the know, speak of massive looting of state resources set out for the effort. They say that our capacity to fight the virus has not improved materially. And the numbers, we are told, are rising, and people are dying.
Against this backdrop, the President and his men, want to continue ruling by decree, and they are doing it in an extremely fraudulent, manner. The people are being sold a false choice between their democracy, and their lives. The gullible are falling to the trick, propagated by a hungry and corrupt BDP vanguard, and its social media sycophants. It is false, that we cannot have public health and have our democracy at the same time. Democracy is an abiding political order,
It constitutes grave arrogance, for any one person to seek to rule 2,5 million people by decree for 18 months. It is arrogant to even consider a time when, absent a justifiable and abiding emergency, that could be justifiable for a single day. The arguments for a SoE have been recycled over and over again. They have all expired. We have entered a vaccination phase in the management of the pandemic.
We do not need a SoE. We need vaccines; we have the nurses to do it. We are at a state where the nation can proceed under the Public Health Act. COVID-19 zoning is still possible under the same. Curfews, are still possible under the same. In law, we talk about abuse of process. That is where litigants use legal processes to achieve unjust ends. It is not sound justification to say that Parliament has justified abuse of process. Robert Mugabe dictated to Zimbabwean by hijacking the democratic order. He passed legislation to cover all wrongdoing. The SoE is an abuse of the Constitution, and power. It is a betrayal of the confidence that the people placed on the President and his Cabinet.
Of course by the time you read this, you will be living under a further six months of a SoE. It will go on until the end of September, because we have elected useless people to defend our democracy. The other day, MP Kenny Kapinga, was cross with me for making like remarks. True I had overgeneralised, and I retracted with apology. But today, Parliament will fail to defend democracy. Many parliamentarians will fail to defend the Constitutional order they swore to defend. The BDP backbench, consisting mainly of Cabinet hopefuls, will either be silent, or will cheer the desecration of our democracy. All Cabinet members must be flushed out ion 2024. They are self seeking, enemies of democracy. The same with those who will be complicit by their vote, or their silence.