BY MOSES MATENGA
DEFENCE minister Oppah Muchinguri (pictured) torched a fierce diplomatic storm at the weekend when she claimed that the deadly novel coronavirus that has wreaked havoc worldwide, killing over 6 000 people, was part of God’s punishment on Western countries particularly the United States for “paralysing” Zimbabwe’s economy through sanctions.
The Zanu PF national chairperson made the utterances in Chinhoyi on Saturday while addressing members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Collaborators Association (ZILWACO).
The statement immediately sparked global outrage, with diplomats and political analysts describing it as a dark and insensitive joke meant to score cheap political scores against Donald Trump’s administration which has maintained a tough stance against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
Muchinguri-Kashiri said the US, which has so far recorded 60 coronavirus deaths with 3 000 confirmed cases, was paying the heavy price for imposing sanctions
on Zimbabwe under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (2001).
“This coronavirus that has come are sanctions against the countries that have imposed sanctions on us,” Muchinguri said.
“God is now punishing them now and they are staying indoors now while their economy is screaming like what they did to ours by imposing sanctions on us. (US President Donald) Trump should know that he is not God. They (US) must face the consequences of coronavirus so that they also feel the pain.”
She appeared to be celebrating the scourge that ironically originated from Wuhan, China, Zimbabwe’s all-weather friend and has spread like a veld fire, to affect over 130 countries with over 10 from Africa.
Muchinguri’s faux pas comes as Zimbabwe has entirely relied on benevolence from wealthy countries for its preparations to tackle the virus. The European Union last week released US$2,5 million and the Global Fund, US$25 million to strengthen Zimbabwe’s war chest against the killer coronavirus.
In the past, the country has also relied on donations to deal with humanitarian crisis such as Cyclone Idai that hit the eastern part of the country in March last year where President Emmerson Mnangagwa grovelled at Trump’s US$2,5 million aid.
“He (US ambassador to Zimbabwe) brought US$2,5 million. Two and a half million dollars! The real US dollars; their own money and not our RTGS$! Trump said if we still wanted some help, we can approach their South African office. Things change, to ask us what we want and this coming from Trump (pictured). This (the disaster) is a blessing in disguise,” Mnangagwa said back then.
Zimbabwe has not recorded its first confirmed case, but the effects on the economy have been visible, with several scheduled gatherings being cancelled.
Some Western diplomats who declined to be named yesterday warned that Muchinguri’s statement could derail the Zanu PF government’s re-engagement efforts and mobilisation of humanitarian assistance. Several international news agencies carried the story.
Political analyst Eldred Masunungure said Muchinguri’s statement was very reckless.
“It is totally an irresponsible statement, we could have expected it from someone, not a grandmother holding such a big position. Coronavirus is affecting everyone, whether saints or sinners. It is indiscriminate. Zimbabwe can be affected as well. This was a poorly thought message, if it was thought through at all. The best she can do is to withdraw it,” Masungungure said.
United Kingdom-based lawyer Alex Magaisa said: “How does she face her Chinese counterparts, where the pandemic began when she makes such insulting and insensitive statements? If we get affected, as most countries are, we will need a lot of help. But she is busy mocking those very countries that are battling the pandemic.
“Her disgusting statement showcases the incompetence, ignorance and callousness of the regime. She is the Zanu PF chairperson. She thinks coronavirus is a Western disease. It is primitive thinking and cheap politicking. She doesn’t appreciate that this is a global pandemic,” Magaisa tweeted.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu also questioned Muchinguri’s statement saying: “Oppah Muchinguri, who is also Zimbabwe’s Defence minister, claims COVID-19 is God’s sanction on Trump. What stupid statement as China has borne the brunt of this pandemic and how safe are we from this virus? Leaders we have.”
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said it was awed by Muchinguri’s statement.
“We all felt the old dispensation had gone with all its hallucinations including their claim to have found diesel in a rock in Chinhoyi. We are surprised that even in the so-called new dispensation, we have hallucinations,” the coalition’s spokesperson Marvellous Khumalo said.
“Surely, how can a minister celebrate the demise of the global village? So many people including fellow Africans have been affected, so to have a leader celebrating the demise of other people is stooping so low. Next time Zimbabweans must vote for God-fearing people.”
Feminist Everjoice Win tweeted: “Please Zimbabweans, tell me our Minister of Defence did not say that stuff about corona being retribution for sanctions? Tell me, it is ‘voice-shopped’, if such exists? Please tell me she didn’t? What level of idiocy does this regime breed nhaimi? No! No! No! Lawd come down.”