Sunday, May 26, 2024

Dr Masupu should make way for fresher ideas

The future of covid-19 in Botswana, as is the case everywhere else remains impossible to either predict or determine.

But there is one thing that we at least have to agree about. Which is that we still have a long way to go. There will be many more cases, more hospitalizations and sadly more deaths.

And with that in mind, the best we can do is to renew our preparations.

The fight against covid-19 needs to take a different texture and a different shape. 

The whole covid-19 task force team needs a root and branch shake up.

That is important at different levels; first to restore the credibility that is fast wilting.

But also to restore public faith in the team.

We need to bring fresh dynamism into the team.

The nation needs to see demonstrable energy in the team.

Unlike when it started, the covid-19 task force no longer commands all that it surveys.

For the covid-19 task force to do its job, the public trust in it should be absolute.

There is still a lot that the task force has to play for.

Which is why they still need to be able to shape a lot in our society.

For them to do that we need as ordinary folks to be able take them at their word.

The leader of the task force is the embodiment of all that the nation expects from it.

Dr Kereng Masupu is the chief coordinator, chief spokesperson and public face of the task force – all in one.

He is an old horse who is unlikely to shift, no matter the amount of pushing he is subjected.

The task force’s standoff with the leadership of the civil service has not helped Dr Masupu’s case, especially his shot at longevity.

If anything, that standoff has laid bare the man’s all or nothing that is effectively snobbish.

Covid-19 demands attention and coordinated planning.

Yet Dr Masupu’s body language speaks of dampened even lost enthusiasm.

For a big country such as we are and a small population at that, we are losing on too many fronts.

And that is no longer the case.

At least from the way he interacts with the nation there is no evidence to suggest so.

At another level Botswana faces economic calamity from covid-19 and ineptitude – more from ineptitude!

Experience from elsewhere teaches us that we may actually just be at the beginning of the fight against covid-19.

Europe and America were way ahead of Botswana with the first wave of infections.

They are now fighting the second wave, which is proving much more ferocious than the first one.

We might be in the throes of a watershed moment.

And Dr Masupu has to embrace change.

If he can’t then his feet should be dragged through the coal.

But who can replace Dr Masupu/

That person does not have to be a medical doctor or a scientist.

We need a military person who is able to act under, stress, at scale and with discernible sophistication. 

Given what is happening in other countries that are ahead of us in infections, the fight against covid-19 needs to be upscaled. 

Masupu was been a great asset, especially in the beginning. But he has now reached his ceiling. And is now a stumbling block.

He looks tired. And there is also a palpable need to inject new impetus and a momentum that has been lacking for a while.

Of course his domineering personality has played a huge role in attempts to create a parallel regime beside the civil service

It is this dichotomous ambition that is really behind ongoing low intensity civil war between public service and Dr Masupu’s task force. 

Given the gravity of the task ahead, there is need for a demonstrable resort to goals-based attitude in the task force that was clear in the early phases of the covid-19 fight.

Over time the task force has clearly lost grasp with reality.

It has lost a much-needed sense of urgency.

And there is also an attitude among them that somehow, they have access to infinite resources.

The current strategy, a product of Dr Masupu has outrun its utility. 

The whole process, chiefly testing and contact tracing has become shambolic. 

All evidence points to the fact that measures we have in place are not working. 

Our contact tracing has become ineffective and overwhelmed. 

We need to be preparing for the worst, like increasing ICU beds – because the worst is yet to come.

People are doing everything to coexist with covid-19.

Frontline workers are tired 

More crucially they’re sick.

Told many people now have covid-19. And chances of one catching it have never been higher.

Yet we see a lot of complacency. People are behaving like we have already dodged the bullet.

Too many contacts are left unattended. These contacts never get in touch with public health authorities. Instead it is left to the contact themselves to determine own fate

There is no testing on them. And no visits from the task force. 

With contact tracing having collapsed, there is no evidence that the task force team is following data driven decisions. 

One other big handle remains unresolved, and for goodness sake it is not a small one. Dr Masupu’s task force has lost the support of the civil service.

Effectively he has not lost the battle with the civil service, but an uneasy truce is in place with either side ready to fire the first shot if needs be.

As a result he has too many enemies in the upper rungs of the civil service.

These are the people who are out to see him fail. Of course some permanent secretaries have been sacked to provide cushion to Dr Masupu.

But it is impossible to sack all permanent secretaries just to protect one man, even if his name is Dr Masupu.

The nation is at a critical stage in the fight against coronavirus.

And might actually be reaching a tipping point. 

Notwithstanding the visibly low testing, we still have high growth of infections. 

Many people are left on their own in their homes having reported themselves to task force.

They are neither tested nor evaluated. 

Some eventually recover on their own without ever coming across a government official or a physician. The after effects are theirs alone to deal with.

Dr Masupu might still have the support of the president – which is by itself a big deal. 

But he has lost that of the people. And the president remains a politician – through and through.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper