The relationship between the Presidential Covid-19 Task Force and a team of Permanent Secretaries, loosely known as PickForce at government enclave, has deteriorated to an all time low, The Patriot on Sunday has learnt.
Sources have revealed that ahead of President Mokgweetsi Masisi's address to the nation on Thursday night, the Presidential Covid-19 Task force recommended that to address the fuel crisis, the country must be put on total lockdown. "Their main concern was that the queues at the petrol station might expose people to the pandemic," a source alleged.
On the other hand the Pick Force countered the recommendations suggesting that there is no need for lockdown as the country has economically suffered enough but rather suggested rationing on petrol. The Pick force cited the ill-advised lockdown of the greater Gaborone which they said was totally unnecessary.
"These lockdown is disturbing the flow of business which will come at a great cost, we must learn to live with the pandemic by adhering to the health protocols.
After lengthy debates the Pick Force which is said to be feeling sidelined by the Presidential Task Force prevailed. Head of Presidential Covid-19 Task Force Dr Kereng Masupu said that he is not aware of any tensions between the two. "I am not aware of such concerns and it is my considered view that relations with all government structures and the Presidential Covid-19 Task Force are in good standing," he said.
The tension between the two forces is said to have started when the Covid-19 Task Force started ursuping the powers of the Permanent Secretaries, becoming sole decision makers."All the tenders for medical supplies are done by the Covid-19 task force with little or no input of the concerned ministries," revealed a Permanent Secretary in one of the ministries.
The two showed their differences during the fuel crisis when Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Mmetla Masire said that the fuel crisis was due to the Covid-19 protocols. Hardly before an ink could dry on his press release, Presidential Covid-19 Task Force released a counter press release indicating that the fuel shortage was not due to Covid-19 protocols.
Former PS and deputy PS in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Solomon Sekwakwa and Dr Morrison Senvula are some of the causalities of the tension between the forces. The two were fired by President Masisi during the initial lockdown as the differed with the Covid-19 task Force over the procurement of the medical equipment.
Another open public clash between the two forces was the issue of alcohol and tobacco ban where PS in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry recommended the lifting of the two products but this was turned down after Minister Peggy Serame published it on her social media pages.
During his address on Thursday night when he announced measures to address acute fule shortages that has resulted in long queues at fuel stations on a daily basis, President Mokgweetsi Masisi called for unity pleading with the nation never to let their guard down."The Covid-19 pandemic calls for exactly the same approach and resilient mentality. We are strong people. That is why I get concerned when I receive reports that despite all of us having worked hard to keep Covid-19 at bay, we are now becoming complacent," he appealed to the nation.
He begged the nation not to relax against the pandemic which he highlighted that the risk is increasing as evidenced by the exponential rise of Covid-19 cases in the region and other parts of the world. Masisi indicated that Covid-19 has adversely affected economic activities in the tourism, mining, manufacturing and services industries which are the mainstay of the economy.
Concerted efforts to get comments from Office of the President proved futile as the Press Secretary to the President Batlhalefi Legajang didn't respond to the questionnaire sent to him on Wednesday.