President Masisi under fire for Namibia trip amid COVID-19 concerns

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi is coming under increasing criticism at home for attending the inauguration of Namibian President Hage Geingob in Windhoek on Saturday. With three confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Namibia and numerous other likely infections, the sentiment shared by Masisi’s detractors is that his attendance was the height of irresponsibility and places the people of Botswana at risk.

Currently, there are no confirmed cases in Botswana, and the country agreed eight days ago with South Africa to close the borders between the two countries after the outbreak of the Coronavirus in South Africa.   

Botswana’s Director of Health Services has placed Masisi in self-isolation at his official residence away from his family for 14 days. This adds to the number of world leaders who have been placed in quarantine, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after his wife contracted the virus, and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel who was exposed through her doctor.

Other SADC leaders who attended Geingob’s inauguration at which there were several hundred guests, were Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Angolan President Joao Lourenco. Both leaders have imposed strict travel restrictions on their own citizens but did not adhere to the restrictions themselves.  

The official narrative being given from the attending Heads of State is that they wanted to discuss cross-border matters in light of the Coronavirus outbreak but there is no evidence that such matters could not have been discussed over the phone or via video conference.

Botswana had suspended external trips for its own officials last week, but Masisi’s flouting of his own regulations has drawn strong criticism given the vulnerability of the small population of Botswana which numbers 2.534 million people. Already, the border closure with South Africa will exact a heavy toll as Botswana relies heavily on countless imported goods from neighbouring South Africa as it is not self-sufficient.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of YourBotswana.


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