THAT President Emmerson Mnangagwa is finally, albeit slowly, waking up to the rude reality of the devastation of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a development worth commending. As much as many would like to remain stuck in the false comfort of the disease’s slow progression on the African continent, the reality of the matter is that if this disease is allowed to take root on the poverty-stricken mainland there will be disaster of epic proportions; equalling or even surpassing the late Middle Ages infamous Black Death or the Great Bubonic Plague, which is humanity’s worst devastating pandemic yet that claimed an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia and Europe from 1347 to 1351.
Africa, Zimbabwe included, is so poverty-stricken that a disease such as COVID-19 can easily sweep through entire countries in a very short space of time given the poor state of the continent’s health delivery systems. Despite this glaring shortcoming, leaders on the continent have been slow to wake up and smell the disaster that is looming.
The lackadaisical attitude of Africa’s leadership is currently being exemplified by President Mnangagwa whose initial piecemeal measures to the COVID-19 pandemic astounds. While he has finally decided to moderately close the country’s borders, internally there is very little evidence that there are efforts to hunt down any more cases which may be out there. Instead, what is evident is a populist stance that has been Zanu PF’s whole mark for the past 40 years it has ruled Zimbabwe.
It is of absolute importance that President Mnangagwa be strongly reminded that this is not the time for populist stances for political expediency. Winter is approaching, and although winters in Sub-Saharan Africa are hardly that cold — in the wake of climate change, are getting cooler, ideal conditions for the coronavirus to thrive. It is, therefore, in order for one to speculate that at the moment the disease could be dormant because of the hot conditions.
There might be very little signs on the ground that the virus is among us simply because of the prevailing very warm weather, but one would shudder to imagine what would happen if very cold weather pays the country and Africa a visit.
One would have thought that President Mnangagwa’s regime would be busy hunting down all those who have travelled abroad in recent weeks and testing them all. In fact, Mnangagwa himself should be in self-quarantine having travelled to Namibia as the disease was fast spreading on the continent. For the love of his people and country Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi set a very good example by placing himself into self-quarantine after travelling to Namibia.
But in Zimbabwe all we are witnessing are piecemeal and half-hearted efforts that expose the fragile Nation Zimbabwe to a calamity of grand proportion.
Mr President, you have an opportunity to lead, to be that transformational leader you have always said you want to be. Here is your opportunity. Zimbabwe can learn from the mistakes and successes of those who have been fighting the virus since January. Italians were very slow to realise the risk the virus posed and the situation was made worse by jumbled messages from its political leaders. In time, however, they got the message when devastation was raging throughout the north, and the death toll has become the highest in the world.
Similarly, the US President Donald Trump treated the outbreak like an unwanted affront to his tough persona, until it was too late. Similarly, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was offhand initially, but credit to those leaders, they are fronting up. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa put the country on lockdown for 21 days from midnight. Zimbabwe might need a similar remedy.
Can our listening President please stand up!