Are Johane Marange followers above the law?

GOVERNMENT’S failure to disperse thousands of Johane Marange congregants in Manicaland province at a time when the country is reporting a surge in COVID-19 cases, dominated by the lethal Delta variant, cannot go unchallenged.

For close to two weeks, thousands of the congregants have been gathered for their annual festival in the midst of a pandemic despite regulations prohibiting public gatherings and only allowing 30 people at funerals.

Human rights lawyers have written to the police demanding action and it seems the latter are reluctant to disperse the gathering, professing ignorance on the gathering whose pictures have gone viral.

We are sure if this was an opposition political gathering, action would have been taken promptly.

Sadly, the inaction is happening after President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday admitted that nearly 80% of the new COVID-19 cases were of the highly infectious and deadly Delta variant.

Let us assume the congregants are vaccinated, but still vaccination is not foolproof protection against the virus.

Bulawayo City Council health services director Edwin Sibanda on Tuesday made stunning revelations that a number of fresh cases recorded in the city include a substantial number of vaccinated people.

This is disturbing given that thousands of Johane Marange apostolic sect members are gathered in Mafararikwa area under Chief Marange for two weeks.

We should not lose sight of the fact that church gatherings are banned.

When reports emerge that the sect members are gathered in their thousands at a time when the Delta variant is “ripping the world at a scorching pace, driving a new spike in cases and death,” according to WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, one is left wondering over government’s double standards in enforcing COVID-19 restrictions.

That the Zanu PF-led government draws much of its political support from the sect is not in question, but to countenance such a large gathering while other sections of society are harassed or arrested for the same, or for conducting door-to-door campaigns as what happened in Bulawayo recently, is shocking and smacks of hypocrisy and a sinister motive.

The Marange gathering started on July 3 and officially ends on Saturday.

Also, some Zanu PF officials have been organising large gatherings in their constituencies despite a ban of such.

In recent months, India paid the ultimate price after the Asian country’s federal government ignored advice to impose strict restrictions on religious festivals and political rallies.India was left struggling to contain a wave of infections and fatalities, with the Indian variant spreading to several countries leading governments to close their borders with that country.

Is Mnangagwa’s administration prepared to take the Indian route by permitting “politically correct” gatherings in the midst of the devastating Delta variant?

An increase in infections given the country’s overstretched health delivery system is bad news for a nation battling a myriad of socio-economic problems. Action is needed now.

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