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Chickens coming home to roost



THE Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) deal has gone wrong! Two weeks ago, Tšepong sacked 345 nurses after a row over pay that had dragged on for more than a month. The government says it has started the process of cancelling the Tšepong licence. It accuses Tšepong failing to resolve the crisis and violating several terms of the contract. Minister of Health, Semano Sekatle, said the agreement between Tšepong and the government has been clouded by conflicts and misunderstandings since inception.

Truth be told, Queen ‘Mamohato Hospital has had an adverse and unpredictable financial impact on the fiscus. Its charges to the government have been galloping over the years. We now know that the hospital is consuming nearly half of the health budget. In fact, we have always known this since it was revealed in a 2014 report by Oxfam, a United Kingdom charity that was one of the first institutions to sound the alarm about the cost of the contract to the government.

The report called the payments to Tšepong a dangerous diversion of crucial resources that should be used in clinics and district hospitals. The government has finally woken from a long slumber that has lasted more than a decade.

Robert Kiyosaki described this act aptly when she said: “Once we leave school, most of us know that it is not as much a matter of college degrees or good grades that count. In the real world outside of academics, something more than just grades are required. I have heard it called “guts,” “chutzpah,” “balls,” “audacity,” “bravado,” “cunning,” “daring,” “tenacity” and “brilliance.” This factor, whatever it is labelled, ultimately decides one’s future much more than school grades.”

I am not sure what to call this bold move but this government has what others call “guts,” “chutzpah,” “balls,” “audacity,” “bravado,” “cunning,” “daring” and “tenacity.” I find this decision brave and commendable. I would say it is probably the best decision they have ever made. One of the most remarkable things about the Sekatle announcement is that it will save us billions of Maloti we have been losing. The termination will cost us a leg and half but we will be saving in the long term.

Had there been anyone weak in this situation, they would have been intimidated. But, it appears that these guys are made of different stuff. They accepted the challenge, found a solution and moved ahead. Another advantage is that more jobs will be given to Basotho companies to run the hospital. Do you remember any tender advertised at QMMH? I can assure you the consortium has been giving jobs to partners.

A lot of people have lost jobs already due to lockdowns. Government could not tolerate another 345 added to the unemployment statistics. Life has not been normal in the Covid-19 era. There are many things that I think all of us are looking forward to at this end of this pandemic. But it is clear there are many things that need to change. We can not squander this unique opportunity to make our new normal better. Government cannot return to its tired, weak old ways.

One of the important lessons we must learn from Covid-19 is that it is essential that the government plays an important and active role in building the nation. We need a government that shows leadership during times of crisis, a government that prioritises investing in everyone and understands the economy is meant to serve the people.

The pandemic has exposed the ugly realities that many Basotho have been living with. It has shown that government can still be relevant, especially when it makes bold policy decisions. Now is the time for bold decisions. Government can choose right now to address the healthcare crisis, invest in manufacturing and renewable energy, grow the economy, and to keep people out of poverty. They can choose to put in place a guaranteed adequate income. Our economy and our government should serve people and our communities.

Ramahooana Matlosa

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