MDC gagged on coronavirus

President Emmerson Mnangagwa


GOVERNMENT has gagged the opposition MDC from commenting and speaking authoritatively on COVID-19, with President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday accusing the opposition of trying to gain political mileage during a crisis.

This was after Harare mayor Herbert Gomba on Saturday tweeted that two cases had been confirmed at the council run-Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital, a tweet also retweeted by the MDC leader Nelson Chamisa.

Government immediately moved to discredit the claims, releasing a statement that only one case had been confirmed.

On Monday, Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo said only his ministry was now allowed to speak on the matter, a situation that effectively silenced comments from Town House, which is responsible for Wilkins Hospital.

Council officials yesterday said they had since been stopped from releasing or confirming anything related to COVID-19.

“We have been silenced,” a council official said.

“They said we should not talk about statistics on coronavirus, especially things happening at Wilkins Hospital,” another official said.

Yesterday, Mnangagwa, in apparent reference to Chamisa and the MDC, said there were people eager to capitalise on the crisis to score political goals.

“We should all be guided by the spirit of Ubuntu in all our actions by rebuking opportunists, who may want to gain some perceived political mileage in this great catastrophe,” Mnangagwa said, adding, “COVID-19 knows no political affiliation, social class or any group. We must all stay safe.”

Chamisa yesterday refused to comment, opting to say: “This is a life and death moment and if leadership does not respond, we have sad loss of lives like what has already happened.”

There has been a fierce clash on social media involving Zanu PF and government officials on one hand and the MDC officials on the other.

Information secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said: “Staff at Wilkins are doing a splendid job for the nation, but there is a need for the few not-so-ethical to remember to keep it professional. Patient confidentiality and dignity needs to be respected. Too much patient detail has found itself in the streets. It is not right.”

MDC deputy secretary for local government Clifford Hlatshwayo said the MDC-run Harare council was in charge of Wilkins Hospital, hence elected officials should be accountable to the people.
“We must report back to the people all the time. It is a national disaster and we must have all hands on the deck,” he said.