The government of Botswana says that it might extend its state of emergency to six months. President Mokgweetsi Masisi says this will enable the state to channel all its resources and energies to fighting the coronavirus (COVID-19).
He met with opposition party leaders on Monday in the capital Gaborone. However, the main opposition party, the Umbrella for Democratic Change, did not attend the meeting.
Botswana is on a 28-day lockdown. This country has recorded six coronavirus cases and one fatality. Its president declared a state of emergency last week.
In the video below, Botswana reports more cases of COVID-19.
President Masisi now wants parliament to approve the extension of the state of emergency to six months. He says this is because of fear that should COVID-19 spread further, it may prove catastrophic for their country.
He reported that they currently only have a little over 100 ICU beds and need at least 5 000 should they get more infections.
“There’s no desire whatsoever, on my part to trample on, take away, abuse or abrogate the rights of anybody. Safety for those rights that might need to be altered or suppressed in the quest of dealing with COVID-19 with the public good; that’s what should take supremacy.”
The opposition reacted differently to Masisi’s request. Biggie Butale of Botswana Patriotic Front says that this could become a habit.
“Once it becomes a habit, even maybe future governments that might not be as kind as the current government, might find an opportunity to use the precedent for undemocratic means.”
On the other hand, Gaontebale Mokgosi of the Real Alternative Party agrees with the president’s plan.
“We support the state of emergency given the danger of the pandemic and also having the experience from various countries, especially in Europe, that have been affected by the coronavirus.”
Wynter Mmolotsi of the Alliance for Progressives also agrees with President Masisi.
“Even the President himself promised that, should everything normalize after the 28 days, he will not want to continue with the six months state of emergency.”
The leader of Botswana Movement for Democracy, Advocate Sidney Pilane, says that this is the second state of emergency to be declared in Botswana.
“This is the second state of emergency that is being declared in our country. You’ll remember the one that was declared by Rre Mogae. I am not aware that there were any complaints that any civil liberties were undermined or they suffered. The present one does undermine some civil liberties, freedom of movement and the freedom of association. Sometimes the nation faces choices, whether to uphold those liberties and let us all perish or compromise them to a degree.”
In the video below, Botswana along with other SADC regions go on lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Botswana’s Attorney General Abraham Keetshabe says the state of emergency does not take away or suspend powers of the three arms of the state, being the Judiciary, Parliament and the Executive.
“The Judiciary still runs itself, Parliament still runs itself; those are the safeguards. You restrict the regulation to the management of the pandemic and leave other independent institutions to run by themselves.”
Botswana parliament will hold a sitting on Wednesday to discuss Masisi’s request.