The Botswana Public Employees Union has since the outbreak of the Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) in 2019 been following the devastating effects of the pandemic globally, within the SADC Region and indeed within our country, Botswana.
It is with a heavy heart that we continue to witness the scourge that is on the loose and rampage, taking the posture of a veld fire and consuming a nation, living a lot to be desired.
We reminisce on the collectivism of our nation, individuals (citizens and non-citizens), local business organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations, the Trade Union movements and Messiers amongst others, whom during the plea by the Botswana Government to make gestures and contributions to the COVID-19 National Relief Fund that aimed at raising funds and resources to combat the scourge did so out of kindness, love and patriotism. We take plight in this unity, ‘Botho’ and collectivism that characterise us as a nation to share responsibility and battle along each other against an invisible enemy with so much courage.
The efforts by the Presidential Task Force and the Ministry of Health and Wellness cannot go unnoticed as the task before them is massive, cumbersome and challenging to say the least. Hence, as the union we pledge our support to their efforts in trying to combat the pandemic and further remind them that in doing the noble task they must ensure sufficient consultations and inclusiveness of the nation and stakeholders as this forms the central tenants of our values as a people as well as the principle participatory democracy we ascribe to.
As the pandemic takes a toll on the nation and rages on, the Health System of our country has been stretched to the limit and can no longer handle the burden of the number of patients in dire need of health and medical care. Over and above, our heroic frontline workers ( Health professionals, Teachers, Medical Doctors, officers at points of entry and members of the disciplined forces) bears the brunt of the crippling health system of the country, majority of whom are our members. We stand in solidarity with this heroes and heroines as they put heavy demands on themselves to save the lives of our citizens.
As the corona virus (COVID-19) continues on the rampage and mutates into multiple variants, the recent being the ‘Delta Variant’, we have witnessed an exponential increase in infection rates and mortality rates across the country even at zones that were less affected, signaling the worst crisis of an outbreak we are facing as a country. According to the recent updates as at the 17th July 2021, the figures depicts that the total number of positive active cases are standing at 12,093, 1, 375 deaths whilst recoveries are standing at 84, 189 from a total of 97,657 confirmed cases.
The union has made an analysis on this figures of mortality rates in relation to the members of the union as a subset of the total mortality rate depicted at national level. The internal data analysis conducted from January 2021 to July 2021 alone indicates that the union has lost a total of ninety one (91) members who have succumbed to COVID-19. This are great men and women who have families, children, and spouses and have left those under their care and support in an agonising bleak future. This is not only a great loss to the bereaved families but also a biggest loss to ourselves as an organisation. The greatest loss also extends to the state and the union who have invested heavily in their career development and training which are imperative in sharpening quality of service delivery to the public. Such loses are not only painful but are regressive in the gains we have made towards providing quality service to public and indeed a great loss to the nation. This indicates that at average the union loses thirteen (13) members in a month and thereby painting a gloomy dark cloud of what may continue to happen. This signals the greatest loses of our beloved comrades and in this vein the leadership of the union on behalf of the entire members conveys the deepest and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and wish that the departed souls of our comrades rest in perfect and eternal peace. We echo the same words to all members of our society and the entire nation equally affected.
As the efforts by the government to vaccinate the nation are ongoing, the recent being the transition into phase two of the vaccination rollout programme which started with adults aged 45 -54 effective 22nd July 2021, we notice that the efforts and campaign is marred with public frustrations especially the pace and speed at which the vaccination process is being rolled out. This should not be viewed as acts of insurgency, public indecency and/or presumed otherwise by those at the highest echelons of government given the spiral increase in the number of deaths that has touched every family household in our country. It is the responsibility of the government of the day to restore calmness and public confidence to a nation that is going through moral degeneration in the midst of a pandemic.
The success or failure of these strategies depended heavily on the effectiveness of national leadership. Botswana has not been spared by the pandemic. BOPEU continues to lose members in the frontline. Families have been ravaged by this virus. We are deeply worried that the majority of our members in the frontline have not been vaccinated yet they are exposed to severe risk of infection and possibly death due to the nature of their work. We call on government to prioritise the lives of frontline workers and provide them with all the necessary safety tools to ensure that lives are protected.
The aftermath of this pandemic has left many families in destitution, disintegration and orphanage. The socio-economic status of our people has degenerated significantly amid restrictions that are coupled with closure of some industries. We anticipate abject poverty and malnutrition in the no distant future especially for a citizenry that has long plummeted into destitution with the majority of whom are living below the poverty datum line. It is our desire that as a nation we ought to exercise calm and stand together with the government through the efforts of the Presidential Task Force, Ministry of Health & Wellness and the frontline workers to undertake the necessary efforts to vaccinate the nation. The union has through a series of media releases and government press appreciated the logistical challenges that have been experienced in procuring the vaccines.
Union position on the way forward
BOPEU advocate for the speedy vaccination of the entire population as this has proved to be the only effective strategy across the globe. All other strategies are effective in as far as they serve as a stop gap in the fight against the scourge. In order to realize the speedy vaccination of the population, we call on government to consider procuring other vaccines from other jurisdictions such as Cuba and Russia to vaccinate our people. If these vaccines are proved to be efficient by the regulatory authorities, government must immediately procure them so that Batswana are not at the mercy of suppliers of these life-saving vaccinations. It is morally correct for BOPEU to condemn countries which are procuring more vaccines than they need, resulting in global shortage for the vaccines which places the lives of millions in jeopardy. The successful fight against Covid-19 hinges on a coordinated global response and this cannot be achieved when other countries such as Botswana and other African countries do not have adequate vaccines.
The BOPEU leadership calls on all individuals, Corporate Organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations, Trade Union Movements, Private Sector, Business fraternity in our country to take a moment of prayer for those affected by COVID-19, in that they find comfort, healing and extend grave support in kind to families that have lost loved ones to the pandemic.
Yours in Solidarity;
President, Botswana Public Employees Union
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