Chief wants  Covid-19 centre shut down

Chief wants Covid-19 centre shut down

MASERU

A village chief has filed an urgent High Court application to force the government to close the National Emergency Command Centre.
In court papers filed on Monday, David Mochochoko, the Chief of Monyahane Ha Mochochoko, argues that the centre is illegal, incompetent and has been wasting resources that should be used in the fight against Covid-19.

The respondents are outgoing Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, Health Minister Nkaku Kabi and Government Secretary Mohahloli Mphaka.
Attorney General Advocate Haae Phoofolo is cited as the government’s legal adviser. Mochochoko says the purpose of his lawsuit is to compel the government to “act lawfully in relation to the corona virus pandemic”.
He argues that the command centre “is an unlawful entity which is not recognised under any law in Lesotho”.

The crux of his case is that the centre was not established in line with the Disaster Management Act 1997.
Mochochoko says only the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) is allowed to deal with emergencies like the Covid-19 crisis.
“I submit that the legislative framework in Lesotho is sufficient to cater for when, why, which, what and how the Covid-19 pandemic (can) be managed or dealt with properly and efficiently,” he says.

Mochochoko tells the court that so far no one in the government has explained who formed the centre and on what legal basis.
He says there is no explanation on the centre’s terms of reference, budget, powers and officers. Also unclear to Mochochoko is the qualification of the officials at the centre and how they were hired.  

He says this lack of answers indicates that the centre “does not exist under any law in Lesotho”.
Mochochoko argues that the command centre itself has admitted that it does not have a legal mandate.
He says this was confirmed by a document leaked from the centre two weeks ago.

The document that he attaches to his court papers and has since been widely circulated bemoaned the fact that the centre has no power or authority, is uncoordinated and has done very little to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

It remains an unlawful entity which does not exist in the laws of Lesotho. The law should be followed which is in existence.”
He adds that the centre is a “wasteful organ which has not produced anything to date to protect lives of Basotho except to cause both economic and health disaster”.

“It is still planning. It is forever planning. It is wasting money. I submit that so far the Command Centre has wasted more than twenty million Maloti (M20, 000, 000.00) of Basotho yet there is no testing facility that exists in Lesotho that has international accreditation.”
He says the case is urgent because the centre was not approved by parliament and continues to use government resources.

Mochochoko cites the M700 million budget which he says the centre wants to use without parliament’s approval. There is continuing illegality by the usage of public funds, he says.
Mochochoko says the fact that forty eight (48) South Africans entered Lesotho without being tested shows that the command centre is incompetent.

“I have to be a responsible chief and file this litigation as people are fearful to address Covid 19 issues while some are less skilled like the multitudes at the Command Centre. I fear for my life, that of my subjects and Basotho in general.”

The centre is already facing a public backlash following revelations of what appeared to be profligacy at a time when thousands have lost their livelihoods because of the national lockdown.
The government which has appeared determined to press on with the centre despite the controversy might see this case as a nuisance.
But the centre’s demise could be a major setback in Lesotho’s fight against Covid-19.

After months of no confirmed cases, it appears that the disease is finally in Lesotho. This week the government reported the first confirmed case of Covid-19, sending panic in a country whose health system is already shaky.

Staff Reporter

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