The paralysing effects of COVID-19

Exercising a right: Voters went to the polls in 11 by-elections recently PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Exercising a right: Voters went to the polls in 11 by-elections recently PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

In key stories she covered in 2021, Mmegi Staffer TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE looks back in the year she is adamant was a challenge as the COVID-19 pandemic frustrated all and sundry, with government plans stalled and people decimated

The state of hospitals, especially in the far-flung areas of the Okavango and Ngamiland, left a lot to be desired. Teachers at schools across the country perished in large numbers as well as their students. Under normal circumstances, where there is a vacancy in a ward or parliamentary seat due to the death of the incumbent, by-elections are held within three months. It was not the case during the year under review, as 11 council wards went without representatives for over 12 months due to the debilitating effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

I chose the health story because it was big and has equally widely affected other sectors in many ways than one. There is a serious shortage of beds in hospitals and COVID-19 worsened the situation since hospitals and clinics were forced to create isolation centres. Therefore, little resources that the health sector has, were then divided amongst the normal wards and isolation centres thereby compounding the situation in some of the wards. Some patients admitted for other diseases other than the COVID-19, found themselves sleeping on mattresses on the floor. Health facilities also need serious renovation. Even premium private sector hospitals and clinics’ shortfalls were exposed, as they couldn’t cope with the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Shortage of nurses was also one of the concerns as they (nurses) were forced to work extra hours without relief. This calls on the Ministry of Health and Wellness to reflect on the matter urgently because the country might experience another wave in future. Already, some countries are hit by the COVID-19 fourth wave like neighbouring South Africa.

Nurses and doctors were some of the people that were hardest hit by COVID-19, specifically the Delta variant, as over 30 of them succumbed to the virus. The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 was accused of a lack of transparency and accountability, especially on procurement of some requisite items.

It was also disappointing the way the Presidential Task Force was hit by the Auditor General in an annual report depicting how funds were not properly accounted for.

The latest report showed that millions of pula were wasted, unaccounted for or misused in the first eight months after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, with inexperienced suppliers grabbing tenders at inflated prices but failing to deliver.

By August 2021, two secretaries-general for the teachers’ trade unions, Agang Gabana of Botswana Teachers Union and Tobokani Rari of Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union reported that they had recorded about 105 deaths amongst the teachers.

At some point, students who were in boarding schools were not allowed to visit their families during the holidays since the Presidential Task Force believed that the students would spread the virus to their parents back home. That was after some students tested positive in high numbers around March 2021.

Politicians were not spared as their activities were put on hold. That affected them badly as most of the party structures collapsed and some of the members also succumbed to the pandemic and these are people who held certain positions. Political parties had to forgo their elective congresses due to the restrictions imposed upon gatherings and meetings and thereby sowing seeds of mistrust within the cadres.

The country could not hold by-elections for vacant council seats since movement was restricted. Therefore, the situation denied some residents an opportunity to be represented until recently when the Independent Electoral Commission finally conducted the by-elections after months of waiting.

Another story that ignited interest is the thawed relationship between the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and State President Mokgweetsi Masisi and the party’s secretary-general Mpho Balopi who is also a Cabinet minister. The duo’s relationship worsened and it is now dividing the party as friends turned foes continue to fight. This fallout culminated with four councillors associated with Balopi being suspended by the President for two months for allegedly tarnishing the party’s name. In politics, the secretary-general is the backbone of the party.

Now, after losing eight of the 11 wards at the weekend’s by-elections, no one is surprised as the BDP went in weakened by its internal strife. The worst is expected to happen ahead of the 2024 General Election if the party does not put its house in order.

Editor's Comment
A step in the right direction

That is indeed a welcome development, especially looking at the fact that the manual way of doing things is slowly disappearing and competency in the use of computers and other digital gadgets has become a must.The simple way of looking at it is just an example that almost all companies have gone completely digital and school leavers will be better placed after leaving school, because they will already be familiar with the use of computers.The...

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