Says SOE is eff ective in the fight against COVID-19


Backbenchers of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) intend to lobby President Mokgweetsi Masisi to extend the State of Public Emergency by a further six months. Parliament extended the state of emergency (SOE) to March 2021 in September last year amid fears that containing spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) was far from achieved.

In addition to the SOE, several COVID-19-related restrictions remain in place nationwide. Meetings of more than 50 people are prohibited, although religious meetings in facilities with a capacity for social distancing are allowed. Most businesses have been permitted to resume operations and schools reopened, albeit under strict conditions of health protocols. People are required to wear face masks in public places, businesses and in public transport.

The MP for Letlhakeng-Lephephe, who is the Chief Whip of the BDP, Liekat Kablay, says contrary to popular belief that the SOE was introduced to loot state coffers, the emergency powers bestowed upon the President have paid off in the fight against COVID-19.

President Masisi should be given support to continue taking decisions in the best interests of the republic because there is no certainty regarding when the pandemic will end, Kablay added.

“The SOE has really worked because of the intense fight against the virus,” he said. “You will understand that the SOE powers allow the President to take whatever decisions he deems necessary to save the nation.”

He expressed a desire for the President to tighten loose ends in COVID-19 regulations by introducing stiffer measures against people who flout the regulations. “Had we not instituted the SOE, more people would have died from the virus,” Kablay asserted. “But it is good that the President takes decisions to enforce certain things like the wearing of masks in public places.”

The MP for Tonota, Pono Moatlhodi, said much the same as Kablay in support of extension of the SOE to ensure observance of laws crafted to fight the spread of the virus.

“I fully support the extension because the SOE is effective against the virus,” Moatlhodi said. “It is unfortunate that some people flout the regulations. Take, for instance, how people flocked to Maun in the midst of this virus in December. How irresponsible!”

Regarding retrenchments during the SOE, Moatlhodi acknowledged that certain companies have been affected much more than others by the pandemic. The MP for Tati West, Simon Moabi, has also pronounced himself as being in support of extending the SOE because “it has proved useful” in the fight against COVID-19.

“It is interesting because Batswana have now started to realise the importance of the SOE,” Moabi said. “The belief in some quarters that the SOE was introduced to loot state coffers no longer holds because the evidence is all out for everyone to see.”

At the University of Botswana, political science lecturer Leonard Sesa said the rising numbers of COVID-19 infections will justify extension of the SOE but put out a proviso.

“This is an opportune time to intensify efforts, given all the challenges posed by COVID-19,” said Sesa. “But I want to challenge the President to state all the things that have been achieved under the SOEs.”