Saturday, January 23, 2021

Botswana government increasingly transactional in its public policy decisions

It has been a week of real fiasco.

In the end it was a real embarrassment for government.

Botswana Government may not know it just yet, but they are involved in a scam that will soil public trust for many years to come.

When this is done, the harm caused will be irreversible and irreparable.

Last week Friday using the SoE powers, the president gave a new regulation; in exercise of the powers conferred on his excellency the president by section 3 of the essential services act, the following regulations are hereby made – …. A testing centre shall not charge a fee in excess of P500 for a COVID-19 test ….”

Some laboratories were tasting in excess of P1000, not a great thing when so many people a cash pressed, have been furloughed or about to be.

Following this, some testing centres immediately issued notices that they were suspending their operations. They were clearly unhappy with the decision taken by the president and government.

On Monday the president issued a new regulation effectively revoking the Friday one.

And within seconds, the testing centres had announced that they were back in business doing Covid-19 tests. The president had been beaten and made to backtrack on a decision he thought he was taking on behalf of citizens.

It was a moment of commercial triumph over government.

There is no prize for guessing who owns these testing centres and laboratories.

Batswana have once again watched in near real time just how their government is behaving like men of straw.

They are not able to hold their convictions against the moneymen running businesses in Botswana.

This gives impetus to those who have consistently argued that the State of Emergency powers are susceptible to abuse.

And that the president uses them to fight petty side wars.

In an era of declining public trust on those in politics, this does not in any way help restore that public trust.

There is always a problem and a risk in taking public decisions that have direct consequences on the nation in hasty, with no advice and informed by anger and/or emotion.

Botswana government seems indifferent to the repercussions of its decisions during the State of Emergency, decisions which for a majority of times serve the sectarian interests of the Asian business community.

This is the surest way to divide the country and engender hostility towards the Asians that the Government so flagrantly favours in all its public policy and decision making.

Government string of decisions risk aggravating simmering tensions that have their roots on who should control the economy of the country.

Indigenous Batswana have been thrown to the fringes.

And the political elite are dinning at the top table with mainly foreigners who dominate the economy.

As a newspaper we are for social and economic stability.

We also have a firm belief in coexistence.

The hostilities could spiral out of control.

And looking at the haphazard manner that our government is failing to manage Covid-19 even in the face of extraordinary powers given by SoE, there can be no guarantee that the same government could be able to manage the social upheavals that they are stoking.

All we can say to Botswana Government is please tread with care, please be warned and please be advised of the fires of hell you are stoking.

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