By NQOBANI NDLOVU
RIGHTS groups yesterday urged government to make use of health professionals to disseminate information on COVID-19 instead of using politicians.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday, while announcing the new level four COVID-19 lockdown regulations, said ministers and MPs would be dispatched to their constituencies to lead information dissemination on vaccination.
But rights activists said sending politicians to disseminate information would not work as they were likely to politicise the process and start campaigning for the 2023 general elections.
“We are disturbed with the intended deployment of legislators and ministers to educate the communities on COVID-19. The MPs are not trained health practitioners,” Ibhetshu LikaZulu co-ordinator Mbuso Fuzwayo in a statement.
“We find these measures reckless. This may result in misinformation and put the lives of people at risk. They (MPs and ministers) will turn the exercise for their personal political gains.”
Electoral activities in the country remain banned as a COVID-19 mitigation measure.
More than 40 constituencies in the country have no representatives after MDC Alliance MPs were recalled by the MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora.
Also, over 165 wards have no representation.
“To the ordinary persons, this looks like a looting scheme where MPs and ministers will be pampered with hefty allowances and gather crowds, putting the lives of their constituents at risk. We urge the government to reconsider and allow health professionals to carry out the communication dissemination task,” Fuzwayo said.
In recent months, Zanu PF MPs have been holding meetings that are attended by many people, despite COVID-19 rules outlawing public gatherings that are not funerals.
Mnangagwa himself has also attended oversubscribed meetings, violating his own regulations. His office has desperately tried to justify the meetings, claiming COVId-19 regulations were being followed, despite pictorial evidence contradicting the claims.
Mnangagwa has also been accused of using the virus to muzzle the opposition.
#This Constitution leader Abigail Mupambi said Mnangagwa was probably referring to information dissemination methods such as sending awareness alerts online, and not real face-to-face education.
She blasted MPs and ministers in the country, accusing them of being unable to articulate issues in Parliament or disseminate information pertaining to their legislative mandate to their constituents.
“Surely, they can’t qualify to educate anyone about health, this can be done best by health experts. MPs and ministers can only advocate and alert people on the basic information about COVID-19 and theirs would be to tell people that this disease is still here with us, urge them to mask up, sanitise and to obey set guidelines and regulations,” she said.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said information dissemination on COVID-19 issues should be done by qualified health experts.
“Politicians, religious leaders and other non-health professionals should desist and avoid making technical health decisions and comments about health issues that are beyond their capabilities as they risk misleading their people and followers. Politics and science do not mix, hence the COVID-19 pandemic is reminding us that governments have little choice, but to let experts take the lead in fighting the deadly pandemic,” he said.
Rusike said there was need to disseminate credible and factual information on COVID-19 in order to counter mis-information and fake news on the issue.
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