Botswana will extend its state of emergency by six months into the first quarter of 2021 as the diamond rich nation gears up to fight the deadly Covid 19 pandemic.
A vote in favour of an extension led mainly by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Members of Parliament (MPs) was made late Monday night. The vote (Ayees:41, No:15 Abstain:1, Absent:6) followed an earlier request by the President – Mokgweetsi Masisi who said that the move was necessary as it provides a better option for government to safeguard the lives of Batswana, while containing and controlling Covid 19.
Borders remain closed
Masisi’s Monday address however made no mention of the possibility of reopening Botswana borders soon. The country closed her borders in March following a rise of new Covid 19 cases in the southern African region. The first case of COVID-19 in Botswana was recorded on 31st March 2020. Between April – a month in which the State of Emergency was enacted and late July a total of 113 cases were registered including one fatality. By this week, a record 1968) positive cases and sixteen (16) deaths were registered.
“COVID-19 has now become a national health and security threat. Now more than ever, it has become necessary to strengthen our national response to the pandemic given our fragile and limited resources”, Masisi said in Parliament on Monday.
In response, the leader of Opposition in Parliament – Dumelang Saleshando said there was no need to extend SOE as the government has some laws in place that could be used to attain what Masisi says needs to be achieved. He accused the Masisi led government of abuse of power adding that little efforts have been made to aid ailing sectors of the economy such as tourism.
A decision to extend the SOE, Saleshando said, could further harm the tourism sector which he said is on the verge of collapsing.
The general fear is that keeping Botswana borders closed could further harm the country’s tourism sector which is projected to lose over P6 billion in revenue, thanks largely to the cancellations and lack of business due to global Covid-19 pandemic.
The extension of the SOE comes at a time when three of Botswana’s neighbours – Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa have since announced that they will reopen their borders and the lift ban on international travel.