COVID-19 public complacency spurred by ruling elite’s scandalous disregard for preventative regulations, and inconsistent policies

So, when the ruling ZANU PF party was busy gathering hordes of youth for a campaign sports tournament yesterday, Saturday 12 June 2021, in the small town of Mazowe - with clearly almost none of them donning any face masks, nor practicing social distancing, and seriously doubting whether any temperature checks, and hand sanitization, were ever carried out - did the government not know that there had been a significant surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, since on the very same day, the vice president (who doubles as minister of health) Constantino Guveya Chiwenga announced a harder nationwide lockdown?

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

 

When the country’s president, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, was proudly (with a guitar in hand) announcing the relaxing of lockdown regulations on musicians, on Thursday 10 June 2021 – finally permitting them to hold live shows, of not more than fifty (50) people, with the strict adherence to preventative measures – were the governing authorities not aware of the increasing levels of COVID-19 cases, resulting in the banning of these same live performances only forty-eight (48) hours later?

Such is the chaotic nature of those purportedly running the affairs of the nation of Zimbabwe, that, is it any wonder the country is perpetually in reverse gear in everything – economically, politically, socially, and even medically (as witnessed by the resurgence of high infections of the dreaded SARS-Cov2)?

What then are we to expect from the ordinary citizenry – when they let their guard down, ostensibly developing complacency towards the disease – since they take their cue from their leaders?

As the saying goes, “a fish rots from the head” – and, as such, when the ruling elite portray utter levels of incompetence, and unpardonable scandalous disregard of preventative measures, which they themselves put in place, then what is to be expected from the rest of the population?

If ever there had been one entity that has organized more COVID-19 superspreaders in this country, then the ruling establishment easily takes the embarrassing crown.

Just over the last month, we have shockingly watched the president unashamedly amass huge gatherings in Gokwe (for the launch of Culture Day) on 21 May 2021 – further, boasting that the large numbers signified public support for the regime – then, barely a day or so later, he was at it again, addressing a multitude of people at a memorial service for the late Retired Air Chief Marshal Perrence Shiri (who, himself, was a casualty of COVID-19).

The ruling ZANU PF party was not to be left out, as they organized and participated in countless superspreader gatherings, comprising of women’s league meetings in places like Chipinge (on the weekend of 21 May), so-called farming training workshops, the First Lady’s “philanthropic” work across the country, party primary elections, launching of various “national projects” (which, turned out to be nothing more than campaign rallies, as the Charwe Nyakasikana statue unveiling), and so many others.

In all this, the same government was issuing out daily statistics on COVID-19 cases in the country – with a clear indication that they were threateningly on a renewed upward trend.

This is not to mention the placing of the districts of Kariba, Hurungwe, and Kwekwe on localized lockdowns – with the last, as a direct result of the detection of the Indian variant of the virus (B.1.617), interestingly, on the very same day the president was hailing the huge gathering at his Gokwe Culture Day launch – only a couple of kilometers away, and attended by a large contingent, from that new hotspot.

In the midst of all this chaos, the government found it “prudent” (by its own standards) to ban any other forms of urban transportation, except for the gravely incapacitated state-owned ZUPCO (Zimbabwe United Passenger Company) – disingenuously, as a way of protecting the citizenry from unsanitary conditions found on other “wayward” modes, such as privately-owned commuter omnibuses (“kombis”), or pirate taxis (“mushikashika”) – yet, never in the past fifteen months of these lockdowns have I ever witnessed any social distancing, hand sanitization, strict enforcement of the wearing of face masks, and temperature checks, on ZUPCO buses.

Then, the government has the temerity to point an accusing finger at the general populace for their complacency, in the face of this ruthless pandemic – thereby, resorting to the imposition of stricter lockdowns, which, they themselves, recklessly violate left, right, and centre with arrogant impunity – yet, placing the lives of the innocent citizenry in jeopardy, since those who attend these superspreaders hardly do so on their own volution, as this ruling elite has a notorious habit of forcing people, especially in the rural areas.

No wonder, many amongst the population end up concluding that these lockdowns (both national and localized) could be nothing more than a sinister political plot – by a regime that knows all too well that it has lost most popular support – that would want to stifle any opposition campaigning, as well as delay the numerous pending by-elections, that, in all likelihood, would witness the severe thrashing of the ruling ZANU PF, and their surrogates in the MDC-T, more so in urban areas.

How else are the hapless people of Zimbabwe expected to interpret these apparent policy inconstancies, as well as willful and arrogant disregard of the law by those who are in power, at the expense of everyone else?

Did we not witness a sudden and unexplainable rise in COVID-19 cases, immediately before the countrywide anti-corruption demonstrations, slated for 31 July 2020 – resulting in a suspicious imposition of a hard lockdown, and the disproportionate deployment of security forces onto the streets, who were accused of heavy-handedness?

Yet, soon afterwards, these COVID-19 cases conveniently began to decease!

So, when I hear the WHO (World Health Organization) representative, Alex Gasasira, audaciously praise the government of Zimbabwe for the relatively low COVID-19 cases in the country, I can not help but laugh.

The people of Zimbabwe owe their continued existence to God Almighty, and other factors – possibly, the predominantly God-given healthy food that we eat, as everything else has become financially out of reach of the majority – due to government mismanagement.

One of the very few silver linings on this grim cloud hanging over the country.

Zimbabwe’s ruling elite can never claim to be protecting its citizens – as proven by its own dangerously brazen violation of COVID-19 preventive guidelines and protocols – and, surely, we only have God Almighty to thank for our survival, but we can certainly “thank” those in power for the tragic deaths of these who, unfortunately, succumbed to this dreaded illness.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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