We have joined the more than 150 countries which are currently affected by the Coronavirus, not that it’s like a badge of honour, but there we are. We have been watching the rest of the world taking measures as and when the virus has been spreading, feeling pretty smug that we were removed, but the savvy among us knew that it was only a matter of time before it reached our shores while the authorities tried to keep “business as usual” for as long as they could. During that time, while we, mere members of the public have been able to glean precautionary measures, our decision makers, have regrettably not taken good note when it comes to effectively tackle and communicate on the matter.
I, along with a number of people, have felt taken for fools since the announcement of not the one, but both press conferences by the PMO over the past two days. The declaration by the Health Minister that there are no cases of COVID-19 in the country, followed by a contradictory announcement by the Prime Minister, an hour or so later, on Wednesday night, goes to show just how much this government is running around like a headless chicken, no matter how much benefit of doubt one might give them. On Thursday, the announcement of a press conference which turned into a Prime Minister’s address, understandably late probably because of alleged mutiny in the Beau Bassin prison, again revealed the chaotic handling of the situation. In such circumstances, citizens look for reassurance, which can only be obtained through strong leadership.
Here’s what I would have liked to see since Wednesday: A prime minister, announcing with due solemnity the number of people who have been tested positive for the Coronavirus, where they have come from, what ages they are, what kind of treatment they have undergone and what is the way forward, in short, the basic 5 Ws of communication, that one would have thought the different advisors on communication matter of the PMO would master. Information that we would expect the Prime Minister to give outright, without being prompted by journalists’ questions. One would have also thought that, by now, over and above care packages, the government would already have an action plan ready to be rolled out, decided during the numerous high-powered committee meetings that are touted to have taken place, and not announced piecemeal, as we go along. Moreover, one would expect the Prime Minister to be more in touch with his citizens during his address on Thursday night, explain clearly what “confinement national” means, take the time to go through all the services that are banned, because, as we know, some holier-than-thou attitude will take advantage of the loopholes in a show of superior piety.
In brief, I would have liked to see a sensitive, confident, fellow Mauritian as the Prime Minister. Instead, as much as the optimist in me hates to say, I have witnessed a bumbling speaker, struggling to keep his calm, itchy to end the press conference, a “wise after the event” message delivered, leaving us frustrated with more questions at the trying moment when we need confident and reassuring leadership at its best. I fervently pray that I will be proven wrong on the subject of this Prime Minister’s leadership and that we, as a collective, emerge from this storm, stronger and more bonded than ever.