Mphaka defends Command Centre

Attributes low COVID-19 infection to its efforts

RELEBOHILE TSOAMOTSE

MASERU – The slow spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic in Lesotho can be attributed to the establishment and subsequent efforts of the National Emergency Command Centre (NECC), Government Secretary (GS), Moahloli Mphaka, has said. Mphaka said the manageable status is a direct result of advice government receives from the NECC, and an indication that the Centre is living up to its mandate.

The technical and expert advice the government continues to get from the Centre have assisted in bringing forth “proper policies in addressing COVID-19.” Lesotho confirmed its first COVID-19 case on March 13, making it the last African nation to record a case. The number has since risen to four confirmed cases following the emergence of two new cases from tests conducted between May 22 and 28.

The first two have since recovered, according to the health ministry. Mphaka’s comments are contained in an answering affidavit in response to a court application by David Mochochoko who wants the NECC shut down. Mochochoko is the Area Chief of Ha Mochochoko, in the Maseru district, and has publicly accused the Command Centre for incompetency. He argues the NECC does not have the nation’s interests at heart and that it is an illegal entity that has not be set up within legal bounds. Mochochoko petitioned the High Court on May 11 for an order that the NECC was unlawful and should be disbanded.

He also asked the court to declare that the lawful organ that has the authority to deal with the administration and management of the coronavirus pandemic is the Disaster Management Authority Board, established in terms of Section 13 and 14 of the Disaster Management Act of 1997, not government departments as is the case now. In his defense of the entity that has since its establishment attracted immense public scrutiny, Mphaka cites the Public Health Regulations (Covid-19) of 2020.

It was under these regulations that a national lockdown was introduced, along with deployment of personnel and how resources should be utilised, procurement of health equipment as well as identification and establishment of quarantine and isolation centres. These, according to Mphaka were recommendations from NECC that have positively guided government.

“…The main responsibility of the Command Centre is to provide technical and expert advice to the government so that government can make proper policies to address Covid-19 issues.

“Just to mention a few things the government was advised on are the following: promulgation of the regulations, the introduction of lockdown, deployment of personnel and how other resources should be utilised, procurement of health equipment and identification and establishment of quarantine and isolation centers,” Mphaka states in an affidavit.

He adds, “the major success, therefore, as a direct result of the advice is that up to now there is only one confirmed case of Covid-19.” Mphaka also took a swipe at Mochochoko, accusing him of attempting to demonise the government in its efforts to respond to the coronavirus. He says there is no concrete evidence on any issues alleged by Mochochoko except “baseless opinion and speculations.”

“It is unreasonable that the Applicant just one morning wakes up and files a case in court without first ascertaining facts and the true status of the National Emergency Command Centre. He comes to court with what he thinks and gathered from various media platforms. This should not be embraced by this court,” Mphaka says.

He told the court that the COVID-19 pandemic required multi-sectoral co-operation and participation, adding the Command Centre was structured not only to deal with the pandemic but to respond to it hence “government’s decision to a structure inclusive of other governments departments.”

While structures projected under the Disaster Management Act of 1997 have defined duties, Mphaka says “the subcommittee of ministries found it prudent to have a more appropriate structure in place which was all-inclusive.” He argues the NECC was working within the law on COVID-19 related issues, through the ministerial committee appointed by former Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane in terms of his executive powers.

He adds, the Disaster Management Act of 1997 and the Public Health Order 1970 were the proper legal instruments used in the running of the Centre. “The Applicant experiences a great misconception here; it is the applicant’s opinion that only the Disaster Management Authority can deal with the Covid-19. This opinion is misconceived and the applicant does not fully understand the provisions of the Disaster Management Act too. “In order to urgently but effectively deal with the situation, the committee of ministers found it befitting to facilitate the establishment of a more appropriate structure which is inclusive of officers from various government ministries, including the Disaster Management Authority to respond to the situation,” he noted.

He has asked the court to dismiss Mochochoko’s application for lack of merit and failure to present evidence to substantiate his claims. “There is no concrete evidence on any fact alleged except baseless opinion and speculation. The government is already working within the law, besides the executive powers the Prime Minister and his cabinet have, the constitution of Lesotho, Disaster Management Act of 1997 and Public Health Order 1970 could be utilized…”

He adds: “The Centre has been duly established by proper authority. The . . . (gazzetting) does not mean that the centre does not exist in law. The document does not say the Centre does not exist in law but solicits additional power it feels it does not have and is necessary.” Judgment in the case has been reserved.

 

 

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