‘Fresher, sit down and learn’

On Sunday July 5, 2020 I listened to the Minister of Health Motlatsi Maqelepo on PC FM as he struggled to tell the nation his plan to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. I was shocked that he blamed former Prime Ministers Ntsu Mokhehle and Pakalitha Mosisili for the limited ICU beds as well as failure to build health infrastructure to house victims of the disease.

I am shocked the young Minister of Health blames his ministry’s incompetence, ineptitude, clumsiness and hopelessness in dealing with this crisis on the former Prime Ministers. Mokhehle and Mosisili did not establish the Command Centre that wasted time over the past four months.

Mokhehle and Mosisili did not take four months to procure basic amenities that aid in the fight against this virus, such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Mokhehle and Mosisili did not demolish Queen II Hospital that had the capacity to house up to a 1000 patients, a few days into a government imposed lockdown which was geared at preparing the country for incidences of the coronavirus.

I think Minister Maqelepo must instead ask former Minister of Health Kabi why he demolished Queen II, while the country was in the process of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The two people you blame for our current predicament changed the face of healthcare in this country by building 138 health centres, 14 outpatient facilities, additional staff housing, the Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital, a blood transfusion centre, a new laboratory and 120-roomed dormitory facility for nurses at the NHTC.

Furthermore the masses of our people have access to primary health care services and diagnostic services have been improved considerably due to the laboratory at Lepereng. In case the minister does not know, the laboratory Mosisili built even facilitates coronavirus testing.
I love and hate this Covid-19 pandemic. I love it because it exposes the weaknesses and stupidity of our leaders. I hate it because it destroys lives and leaves its victims helpless.
Maqelepo must instead blame former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and Nkaku Kabi.

For the first time in our history we are going to witness the full horrors of corruption. Unfortunately this is going to come at a huge cost.
On April 1, 2020, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport in collaboration with Ministry of Health took on a foolish endeavour to demolish Queen Elizabeth II hospital, few days into a government imposed lockdown.

The then Minister of Health defended the demolition of Queen II, vowing that the hospital would have been reduced to rubble in 30 days. They were quick to spend government money by demolishing Queen II.
Kabi’s own government then declared a public health emergency and moved to enforce a lockdown so that the government of Lesotho could prepare for the storm which was looming then and finally made landfall in late June 2020.

Kabi and his colleagues in government should have prepared for the pandemic by mass testing, screening, tracing and isolating cases. They should have prepared treatment and isolation centres.
These were the main drivers of why Lesotho was on lockdown for a whole month and instead of considering a hospital as a scarce resource which primarily helps on health issues, Kabi thought it a wise idea to demolish a hospital which was still in useable condition!

What did we do to deserve this? Though Mokhehle and Mosisili had improved our health infrastructure tremendously, Lesotho does not have world-class health infrastructure and the least we could have done was equip Queen II with the required ventilators and we would have turned it into a 1000 ICU beds treatment facility.

For one to understand the gravity of Kabi’s decision, you need to look at the prevailing situation as at July 2020. Almost four months later Lesotho has one ventilator ward which was donated by Standard Lesotho Bank a few days ago. We already have one critical case of Covid-19 which is being treated in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

As Lesotho is still preparing for Covid-19 mitigation, should the government finally procure ventilators where will they be housed? An incapable politician decided to demolish an existing hospital, when China built one in a few days during the peak of Covid-19! How could one man be this irrational? Does he understand the cost of his narrow thinking? That is the man you should blame Minister Maqelepo.

Getting hold of kits and the chemical reagents needed to process tests has been difficult for us in Lesotho. Sam Matekane in April donated the equipment, testing kits and chemical reagents. He also brought the operator who was going to perform the tests.

Kabi played a major role in delaying our testing capability. He refused philanthropic acts of Matekane simply because the company that was going to do the tests was charging us M300. He said they will do a tender, even today I have never seen that testing tender. Minister Maqelepo please tell us how much we are paying South Africa for the tests they have been performing? I can bet we are paying over a M1000 per person/test.

Kabi also started our national response in a very poor and weak manner. As a nation we have been slow to allocate money and resources to tackle the pandemic. Shame on our leaders, maybe they do this because they know they will have access to health care in South Africa, while we perish like flies, fighting over the limited ICU beds.

Mosisili once told the then Minister of Communications Tseliso Mokhosi: “Fresher sit down and learn.”
I need to end this by telling Minister Maqelepo the same words: “Fresher, sit down and learn.”

Ramahooana Matlosa

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