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*Gaontebale Mokgosi

Real Alternative Party takes heed with seriousness and supports the call made by Kgalagadi Brewery Limited to bring the attention of BDP government on its neglect of economic, and social rights during the public state of emergency. As disclaimer, we hearken to set the record straight that the basis of our stance has nothing whatsoever to do with KBL or any of its products. But rather our stance is fuelled by our party principle of political vanguardism i.e. the duty to defend the very lives of the people (that is the working class) for whom the unilateral measures are being taken. Also, our stance is more than just a philosophical or ideological debate about democracy or human rights, but it is premised in the spirit of candor, concern, compassion and empathy.

Real Alternative Party shares the same sentiments made by KBL that protecting human life and dignity, and prohibiting discrimination, in situations of emergency is indispensable to the survival of the population. We consider the stance taken by Masisi`s presidency towards KBL to be less than ideal. We find a majority of emergency regulations and measures adopted by the BDP State to stop the spread of the pandemic to be vague when it comes to human rights protection, especially the non-derogable rights. The state of emergency has been imposed without respecting due process in guaranteeing the economic and social rights and the very right to life. If anything the state of emergency has reinforced the trend of a “constitutional dictatorship” and vertical governance that characterizes the inherent BDP State style of ruling. Its implementation is marked by the absence of, consultation processes with parliament, independent consultative bodies such as the private sector, local authorities and civil society organizations. We strongly suspect that even the justice and reconciliation institutions such as the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice are kept in the dark in terms of the implementation of emergency regulations and measures. Clearly President Masisi has failed to outline measures to provide for rigorous checks and balances and to take appropriate corrective measures in order to mitigate the negative effects of Covid-19 state of emergency.

While we acknowledge measures and regulations of the State of Emergency were taken to protect to prevent the further spread of the virus, the implementation of these measures has complicated existing challenges and exacerbated the economic and social rights of citizens. Botswana being a country that has internationally propagated itself as a leading example of democracy in Africa acts contrary to the International humanitarian law (i.e. the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). According to this covenant, during emergencies, States need to take measures to enable individuals to fulfill their economic and social rights themselves or, if necessary, to ensure direct provision of certain goods and services to ensure adequate conditions of life for the civilian population with regard to matters such as health, food, relief assistance, work, employment and education. This is not happening in Botswana.

What obtains as factual truth is that Covid-19 State Of Emergency procedures do matter given that the covid-19 epidemic presents a real, current imminent danger to every human community. However, such procedures must ensure the soundness of the state of emergency; it must protect against potentially arbitrary decisions, contribute to the stability and solidity of social welfare, safeguard checks and balances, and provide for accountability mechanisms. In essence the measures taken to counter the crisis must be proportional to the gravity of the emergency situation.

The political principle of RAP is that economic and social rights are inviolable humanitarian provisions that must remain non-derogable under any circumstances including in the event of a state of emergency. For us health security does not necessarily supersede economic security as the two are mutually inclusive. Declaring a state of national disaster to preserve the health of the population has to ensure that it does not endanger their economic security at the same time otherwise the COVID-19 restrictions become self-defeating. Such a State of Emergency risks becoming a human rights disaster. Moreover, the state of emergency does not authorize those in power to act in disregard of compassion, concern and empathy or to be used as a justification or ground for unilateral sanctions. A candor government ought to take advantage of a state of emergency to provide for the most vulnerable of the population than for other self-serving purposes. In substance, a state of emergency must apply in proportionality to the area of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Hence by issue of this statement, RAP urges the BDP State to convey a sense of compassion and willingness to hear from KBL and understand their concerns than to adopt an adversarial role.

Managing the COVID-19 crisis requires cooperating with non-state systems of governance to ensuring an effective crisis response. It is high time that the BDP State takes steps to forge partnerships and provide avenues in responding to the corona crisis. As a part of the crisis solution, unified approach is long overdue. We advise President Masisi through his government (emulate former President Festus Mogae during his tenure in office wherein he successfully employed district multi – sectoral approach to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic) to show willingness to involve various groups, such as private sector, civil society, youth, community leaders, media as partners in the response and prevention of the outbreak. Opportunities must be provided for different publics to come together proactively to share lessons learned from this pandemic and prepare for more increased prudent interventions. It is vital to forge public partnerships for community engagement. Above all, these measures should anchor a holistic perspective that enables the consideration of the economic and social rights of citizens in the context of state of emergency. The BDP State must use the crisis as an opportunity for Botswana to design a real multi-sectoral integration project building societal resilience by placing human security at the centre of the response to the pandemic.

The Covid-19 taskforce also ought to be relinquished of their mandate and transfer the same to NAHPA for emergency expertise and overseeing the process and provide some scientific legitimacy to the measures that needs to be taken. Termination of the Covid-19 taskforce has to be done in light of prudence use of public funds given that NAHPA has equally competent human resource matching that of the taskforce. This should not be misconstrued as seeming to discredit the expertise given by the taskforce. On the contrary we applaud them for their dedication and diligence in their task. However, we are of the view that – it is more intelligent to render NAHPA the mandate of the Covid-19 taskforce given the resurgence cases of the scourge of covid-19 and the fact that it does not seem the fight against will be won any time – soon.

In the final analysis, BDP government needs to seize this crisis as a window of opportunity to rethink the urgent need to diversify Botswana economy and step up efforts to reverse its status of import of goods and its dependency on tourism, export of raw materials and to improve future access to food, commodities, finance and markets for both individuals and local companies as well as to address acute crisis of employment facing Botswana. A show of emotional appeal, fear-based and anger-based sanctions from Office of the President will not help but instead it only leads to deleterious effects!

Gaontebale Mokgosi

Brother Chairman

Real Alternative Party

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