In attempting to explain away why he took an ill-fated shopping trip when he had been told that he might have COVID-19, the Tonota MP, Pono Moatlhodi, only succeeded in tying himself in knots.When parliament convened for a special session a fortnight ago, a government nurse came around to take the temperature of MPs, as part of a COVID-19 screening process.
The following day, MPs learnt that the nurse had tested positive for the disease and that since they had come into contact with her, they couldn’t go back to their constituencies but had to be quarantined at their Gaborone residences. When this announcement was made, there were howls of protest from a good portion of the chamber. The protest was in vain because the Director of Health Services, Dr. Malaki Tshipiyagae, told the MPs (after the din had died down) that they couldn’t leave town.Later that day and after the session had ended, a video clip of Moatlhodi, an Umbrella for Democratic Change MP, at a Choppies supermarket popped up on social media. In the video, one woman asks him why he wasn’t in quarantine at his house and as he struggles to find a credible explanation, the woman, whose face doesn’t appear in the frame, spots another MP (Paulson Majaga of Nata/Gweta) and communicates that information in the video.
The video would, like COVID-19, go viral itself and at 1120 p.m. that day, an obviously panicked Moatlhodi posted an apology on the Tonota-UDC Facebook page. In the apology, he says that he called Tshipiyagae for guidance about quarantine protocols that he and other MPs were required to follow. After Tshipiyagae told him to go home, Moatlhodi says that he stopped off at Choppies to buy toiletries for the emergency he found himself in.All that would make perfect sense but for the fact that there is another video clip on social media that features the same Moatlhodi that was posted last month. In that video, he is sitting in a vehicle and microphone in hand, is providing public health education on COVID-19 to members of the public.
This demonstration of leadership and civic virtue was lauded by most, including President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who, in his address to the special parliamentary session, singled out the Tonota MP for having displayed exemplary leadership to help contain the spread of the disease. In fairness to Moatlhodi though, he talks only about sneezing into the crook of the arm in the video but his public address would certainly have been comprehensive – it has to be. He would have talked about social distancing and there is no way that as an MP, he would not know how suspect COVID-19 cases are handled.As most apologies, Moatlhodi’s own lacks wholesomeness because he seeks to absolve himself of some blame by providing a scenario that left him with no choice but to go to Choppies. However, a COVID-19 educator like him and someone in his position should certainly have known and done better.