COVID-19 TASK FORCE BYPASSED IN “ARM READY” CAMPAIGN
• Little known Publiko directly appointed • Critics say the campaign is a waste of money in a recession • Govt official linked to campaign
Investigations by The Business Weekly & Review show that the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) bypassed the COVID-19 Task Force when it planned and executed its controversial “Arm Ready” campaign that allegedly cost millions of Pula
Sources say the Task Force, which was set up to help coordinate the country’s response to the pandemic, was kept in the dark throughout conceptualisation and planning of the multi-million Pula campaign.
It appears that although the Task Force guides Botswana’s response and is crucial in communication of COVID-19 data and the vaccination roll-out plan, it was surprised to learn of the campaign when the Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti launched it on Wednesday last week.
The Coordinator of the COVID-19 Task Force, Dr Kereng Masupu, has confirmed that he and his team of medical and Communications experts were excluded from the campaign. “Kindly note that the Presidential COVID-19 Task Team was not consulted on both the development and launch of the Arm Ready campaign,” said Dr. Masupu in a written response.
“Further, the COVID-19 Task Team is not involved in its implementation. Therefore, we are unable to provide you with any information regarding the campaign. Further questions on the campaign should be directed to the Ministry of Health and Wellness.”
The “Arm Ready for Lemao” campaign was launched against the backdrop of low public confidence in the government over its silence on vaccination three weeks after the first batch of donations of AstraZeneca/Covishield vaccines arrived from India.
Sources regard the “Arm Ready” campaign as a waste of money by the health ministry at a time when public coffers are dwindling in the COVID-19 induced recession. They rather believe funds should channeled towards procurement of the vaccine instead.
This newspaper can confirm that a certain company called Publiko has been engaged by the ministry for the “Arm Ready” campaign. Documents at the Registrar of Companies show that the company was registered on 23 July 2020. Its sole shareholder is Abigail Moemi Takaedza while West Takaedza is the Managing Director.
Sources say a certain Salim Kegodile, who serves as Senior Administration Officer in the Ministry of Presidential Governance and Public Administration, has links to the campaign.
According to weekend broadsheet, The Patriot on Sunday, Kegodile has denied being a part of the campaign while Takaedza has confirmed being engaged by the ministry.
“I am not getting any single pula from this campaign. It was all about me and my team being patriotic but now people are politicizing it,” Kegodile is quoted as saying. Kegodile, lost a contest for a Council seat in 2019 under the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) ticket.
The campaign happens while District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) are running public education initiatives to educate the nation on COVID-19 protocols and vaccines. Reliable sources say this could create tension because people in the “Arm Ready” campaign will have to work with DHMTs at district level.
At the time of going to press, the Ministry of Health had not responded to this publication’s email enquiry sent on Monday and subsequent follow-ups.