The Botswana Government has decided to keep the former President Festus Mogae as Chairperson of the National HIV/AIDS Council.
Given Mogae’s unparalleled record in fighting HIV/AIDS, this is one of the best decisions to have come out of President Ian Khama’s government in the last few months of its existence.
There is no need to emphasise the fact that, as a country, Botswana needs to maintain the momentum achieved so far in her fight against HIV/AIDS.
Questions, however, abound on the long-term sustainability of Botswana’s HIV/AIDS programs, especially the free anti-retroviral drugs provided by government.
It would be a human catastrophe were the people currently reliant on government’s patronage for these drugs are, all of a sudden, left in the lurch and be told to enter the open market for these drugs at own cost.
It is in here that government will continue to rely on the assistance of development partners like the Bill and Melinda Gates, who have for so long been generous enough to meet the Botswana Government half-way in averting what threatened to annihilate an entire nation.
Going forward, it will not be easy, at least not as it has been in the past to convince these erstwhile partners to continue with their generosity.
It will, of course, take people like Former President Festus Mogae with whom these organizations, countries and donors have worked over the years, and with whom they have built a close working relationship and rapport.
Botswana has been classified as a middle income country.
This has led many donor countries and their development organizations to turn their backs on Botswana as they focus on those countries that are classified and profiled as more in need when it comes to international assistance.
Going forward, no doubt, personal relationships will be necessary if Botswana is to continue receiving even a fraction of the international HIV/AIDS money.
A person of President Mogae’s caliber and experience is no doubt going to be critical.
Throughout his presidency, Festus Mogae made fighting HIV/AIDS his passion.
At a time when some regional leaders were coming up with quack philosophies about possible remedies to AIDS, Mogae stood firm that there was no cure for the disease.
He insisted that other than protection, the ARVs were the biggest hope for those already leaving with the virus.
At a time when some regional leaders were coming up with fancy philosophies about the causes of HIV/AIDS, with some of them even denying its existence outright, former President Mogae publicly told the world that Botswana was reeling under the scourge.
He made it clear that, without assistance from outside, Botswana would perish.
This was a bold assertion by a leader who did not want to skirt around the problem that he, his government, his people and his country faced.
It is thanks to Mogae’s candour, passion, sincerity and dedication that, in the end, a lot of donor organizations literally scrambled to assist in the fight in one way or another.
However one decides to look at it, Botswana owes its successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS to the spiritedness that Mogae’s leadership on the issue gave in the ten years that he was president.
It, therefore, has been a good decision by the current government to retain Mogae as the Chairman of the National AIDS Council.