THESE are indeed desperate and trying times for Zimbabwe. More than half of the country’s population is facing hunger and the country, whose largely informalised economy is tottering on the brink of collapse, is now in a 21-day lockdown. Talk of it never rains but pours torrential. For a fragile economy like ours, locking it down is tantamount to shutting off oxygen supplies to a patient in intensive care.
And even more astounding is the behaviour of our rulers. Last week the ruling Zanu PF party held its politburo meeting where we surprisingly hear that the whole esteemed body of capable people never even discussed about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We hear they, instead, discussed about the 2023 general elections. It is tragically sad that they are seeing this disease as an opportunity to campaign for elections due in over three years’ time.
Also dumbfounding is President Emmerson Mnangangwa’s decision to appoint Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga as leader of the country’s crusade against the dreaded COVID-19. Fresh from a foreign trip that comes long after Mnangagwa stopped all travel in and out of Zimbabwe, Chiwenga’s appointment to lead the COVID-19 fight only serves to highlight the desperate situation the country is in.
No one was ever briefed on the purpose of Chiwenga’s visit to China which occurred at a time the disease was at its peak, ravaging the world. If it was for him to learn how the Chinese fought back the disease, well and good; but if it was for something else, would it not have been prudent for the Vice-President to go into self-isolation first before he started any official duties.
All these issues simply point to a nation that is completely unprepared to confront COVID-19. We, therefore, sincerely hope that the lockdown is not some crude state of emergency that will be used to try and vanquish all dissenting voices in the country. As it stands, the whole lockdown exercise has all but heightened confusion in a nation that is already in sixes and sevens given the dire hunger, widespread water shortages and desperate economic situation. At this rate, it is highly likely there will be more body bags due to hunger rather than due to the virus.
We also honestly hope that by the time the lockdown ends, the economy will not be no more after industry warned that completely locking down the fragile economy would spell doom for the southern African nation.