Botswana Legislators' Failure To Comply To Set COVID-19 Regulations Is Irresponsible

Yesterday, Botswana's main legislative body, the parliament, convened for the second day to continue debating a motion which had been presented by the president, His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi, on which he was requesting for the state of emergency, which had been declared for 28 days, to be extended to 6 months to help his government better fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before proceedings begun, the country's Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Lemogang Kwape announced that the country had recorded seven more positive cases of the Coronavirus, bringing the total to 13 hitherto. It was announced that one of the positive cases was a nurse who had been present in the special parliament sitting the previous day and had partaken in screening the MPs as they entered the sitting.

Knowing how extremely contagious the virus is, it seemed like because of the exposure that the legislators had to a now confirmed case, the best option in the interest of both their own safety and that of the nation would be to immediately place all those who were present into quarantine. Instead, the very opposite happened. At the insistence of even His Excellency himself, the parliamentary sitting proceeded, a move which— in full view of the nation— undermined the seriousness by which the country's leaders repeatedly took the fight against the Coronavirus.

To further show how lightly those that the country has entrusted to lead the fight against the pandemic took their jobs, the country's Director of Public Health, contrary to his own government's set regulations, proceeded to give the legislators the nice option of either self-quarantining at their homes or at a location decided on by the ministry, a privilege that ordinary citizens do not enjoy. It appears most of the legislators chose the former option as some of them were spotted out shopping, breaking their self-quarantine rules.

Yesterday's happenings were not the first time that the country's legislators had shown total regard for the same laws that they expect everyone else to comply with. A few weeks ago after the government had encouraged citizens to limit travel to only when it was absolutely necessary and avoid visiting countries which had confirmed cases of the virus, His Excellency decided to attend an inauguration ceremony in Namibia—a country which had already recorded cases of the virus— causing an uproar in the country. His reasons were that the event was a chance to discuss pertinent diplomatic issues with his southern African counterparts at the inauguration and many wondered why a government which had been preaching its insistence of advancing the country's 4IR standing couldn't telecommute with those other leaders.

Despite their leaders enjoying a lax in regulations, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, the country's citizens have not been enjoying the same privileges. From denying pregnant women medical care to its overzealous security forces showing no mercy on those breaking regulations, the country's government has been using an iron fist in imposing the regulations for fighting the virus. The disparity in the treatment of leaders and citizens brings into question the government's adherence to the country's constitution which clearly states that rule of law applies equally to everyone and echoes the words from George Orwell's book Animal Farm that "all animals are equal but some are more equal than others", bringing into question the country's celebrated democratic principles.

Right from the president deciding to break his government's own travel regulations to him deciding to call for a parliament sitting in the middle of a global pandemic caused by a highly contagious virus to yesterday's events, the way Botswana's leadership is going about handling this scourge heretofore raises a lot of questions about the country's chances of coming out of it not completely decimated. If leaders are failing to adhere to the very same regulations that they have set, how can citizens be expected to comply? How can citizens be expected to take the fight against COVID-19 seriously when their leaders do not? In times like these, there needs to be compliance with the set preventative measures by the government but if the same government fails to set an example, what chances do we have of the regulations being followed and the virus being contained?

The Coronavirus does not discriminate between a leader and a citizen but the way leaders are acting in Botswana, one would think that they are somehow immune to the virus. Their actions paint a picture of people who have no regard whatsoever for their own lives and it becomes difficult for citizens to trust those kinds of people with making decisions that will save their lives. It creates a spirit of rebellion by way of not adhering to the government's regulations, further debilitating the country's fight against the virus.

If Botswana's leaders really care about succeeding in the fight against this scourge, they ought to start leading by example. This current status quo of choosing politicking over the safety and health of the nation has to stop. People are inclined to follow leaders who they can trust and believe in and so far, Botswana's leaders have not done much to warrant that trust.


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