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Botswana-political leaders clash over state of emergency

Botswana’s opposition leader Dumelang Saleshando on Sunday accused the presidency of bad faith over the rationale behind announcing a state of emergency with a view to tackling the coronavirus pandemic.In a statement, Saleshando said when President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced the state of public emergency on 30 March, he reached out to the Office of the Vice President for a possible meeting to appreciate the rationale behind the move.  

“There may be sound reasons why our president felt he needed to be clothed with additional powers than what is ordinarily permitted and further allowing him to abandon all manner of accountability. Unlike what many have suggested, state of emergency and lockdown are not Siamese twins”  Saleshando said. 

He said on 3rd April he was called by a senior officer in the Office of the President who informed him that the president would like to meet him alongside other leaders of opposition parties to brief them on the coronavirus response by the government.  

“Less than an hour later, I was called and told that the invitation had been withdrawn because the party I lead (Botswana Congress Party) did not contest the 2019 general elections,” said Saleshando. 

The Botswana Congress Party was part of the opposition coalition, Umbrella for Democratic  Change, which contested the last elections as a bloc. 

“I will not be attending the meeting convened by the President tomorrow (Monday) as my invitation has been withdrawn by the Office of the  President. Its unfortunate that the president does not see the need to  have “all hands on deck” to deal with the crisis,” said Saleshando.

Masisi recently announced a state of emergency which saw a number of regulations among them, a nationwide lockdown being enacted to curb the spread of the virus. 

Some analysts have expressed concern that the decision to declare a state of emergency could be abused as there are already laws that empowered Masisi to declare a lockdown. 

Botswana has confirmed four cases of the virus and one death. 


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Published on 28.04.2020

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