Post-COVID-19: Time for the leopard to change its spots

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THE number of coronavirus confirmed cases crossed the three million mark early this week and is still on the rise.

COVID-19, as the current strain of the novel coronavirus is known, has already barrelled through Asia, United States and Europe where the death toll is grimly and sadly crawling towards 250 000 mark and with the search of COVID-19 vaccine drawing blanks, the virus’ appetite for more scalps is even unrelenting.

It is quite apparent that coronavirus has become the most fatal pandemic in this century, especially after the Spanish flu of 1918.

More worrisome is that with winter, a season in which respiratory diseases such as coronavirus thrive, around the corner, we are reminded of the disaster that lies ahead.

Governments across the globe have done everything within their means to curb the spread of the virus — pronouncing lockdowns, closing borders and isolating those at risk, but it seems the angel of death is still upon us.

The private sector, especially tourism, will not recover in the foreseeable future. Companies are likely to cut costs — streamlining their operations — as they try to navigate the rough waters brought about by a health cyclone that was discovered in China last year. As part of stimulating their businesses, organisations will review their processes as well as their business models and weigh them against their resources. The Retrenchment Board will be overwhelmed as companies shed non-essential employees. When the private sector sneezes, the government catches the cold.

With the Zimbabwe economy highly informal, a two-digit negative growth is highly likely, considering that the country has been experiencing successive droughts in recent years. The Zimbabwean economy will remain in the woods as government can ill afford to provide stimulus packages, just like its neighbour across the Limpopo River did. Government, which usually relies on taxes to oil its operations, was hit on the soft spot as production ground to a halt.

There is no doubt that coronavirus has brought a new normal. In the post-COVID-19 period, it should not be business as usual. Navigating the post-COVID-19 terrain is going to be an intricate of maze of losses, challenges and risks, which can only be realised from harnessing an inclusive and transformative leadership.

All said and done, there are numerous lessons that can be drawn from the coronavirus pandemic. It is hoped that President Emmerson Mnangagwa, as a listening President, will take note.

Global village

We now live in a global village. What befalls one country has a direct consequence on the other.

It’s now time for the new dispensation to do everything for the country to be admitted into the family of nations. No country will survive in isolation.

While it is Zimbabwe’s right to look east, we can’t afford to frown at the global north, west and so is the south. While the Look East policy might be bearing fruits, Zimbabwe needs to look everywhere as we don’t know where our salvation will come from.

Instead of politicising the COVID-19 pandemic, now is time to commiserate with everyone and build bridges. It’s not late to turn lemons into lemonade. Our sage says if you want to have many people at your funeral, you should make it your business to attend each and every funeral across the village.

Recently, Zimbabwe and Sudan, which are on United States sanctions, were excluded from the debt relief given to poor African countries by the International Monetary Fund. But if the Zanu PF government wants sanctions lifted so that the country can benefit from being a member of the family of nations, it should discard it old ways. It’s not too late for the leopard to change its spots.

Wake-up call

Linked to that, coronavirus has further exposed the foolhardiness of most African leaders – the glutton that makes them steal from their people and store the loot in safe havens either in Europe and Asia, hoping that when trouble visits them they can jump ship and enjoy it in the sun.

The Zanu PF government has since 1980 plundered local resources, ran down healthcare systems and would fly out as medical tourists on a slightest chance. But thank God, coronavirus has levelled the playfield – foreign medical junkets have become almost impossible. With flights grounded and countries across the world on lockdown, the coronavirus pandemic is a wake-up call that they must fix healthcare systems at home. If millions of dollars that our “rulers” spent on foreign medical trips was invested locally, Zimbabwe could have maintained its “Jewel of Africa” status it was at independence.

Now all and sundry are now being jam-packed at Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital, which has also suffered years of neglect, to the extent that it no longer has power sockets. Charity begins at home.

Local funding

The Abuja Declaration, which Zimbabwe is a signatory, compels member countries to allocate at least 15% of their national budgets towards the health sector.

It is incomprehensible that in a country without access to potable water, hospitals have run out of drugs and health workers are forced to work without basics, yet our leaders can afford a medical trip after a bout of flu. It is also unimaginable that a mineral-rich country such as Zimbabwe, has its healthcare staff across the country who work with the “do it yourself” protection gear because personal protective equipment is in short supply. There is no rationale in allocating a bigger vote on defence in this modern day unless we would want to keep our security forces ready to quash dissenting voices.

Health, education, agriculture and housing should be high on government’s priority list. Something must have gone fundamentally wrong with our priorities.

In the post-COVID-19 period, it is hoped that the new dispensation would think and behave as such.

Pro-poor policies have always carried the day in post-disaster periods. COVID-19 is clearly a call to rethink our funding models, which means every country would now need to be self-sufficient, considering the rising protectionism around the world. It is high time we change the narrative. We can’t continue on this self-destructive path.

For Zimbabwe, the plan to create an upper middle class economy in the next 10 years is off rails and is compounded by an inept leadership. Neglecting the health sector is self-defeating. A healthy nation is a productive nation. Food for thought!

 Cliff Chiduku is a journalists based in Harare. Feedback: cchiduku@gmail.com