Covid-19 lays bare lies, decaying health systems

THE Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected about 2,7 million people globally, killing almost 190 000 and destabilising the global economy, has exposed Zimbabwe’s incompetent leadership, while laying bare the extremely difficult situation the country finds itself in.

Candid
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Owen Gagare
ogagare@zimind.co.zw

The early lies by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime that the country was ready to deal with the pandemic was proven to be a fallacy late last month, when the first two cases of Covid-19 were recorded.

The Zororo Makamba case — Case Two — revealed beyond doubt what every Dick, Tom and Harry knew: Zimbabwe’s shambolic health system, long abandoned by the political elite, could not handle the rampaging coronavirus.

At a time countries such as China, United States, Italy, France, Spain and Britain, which have far better health infrastructure than Zimbabwe, were stretched to the limit, our Health minister Obadiah Moyo was claiming that the country was ready. Ironically, the country’s main isolation centre, Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital, did not even have a ventilator, power adaptors or an intensive care unit.

Test kits, which are vital in detecting the virus, were not readily available, resulting in limited testing. Officially, Zimbabwe had 28 cases and four deaths as of Wednesday, but health experts believe the figures could far exceed the tally. The government, under pressure from the public and following in the footsteps of other countries, announced a 21-day lockdown starting on March 30 before it was extended for two weeks, without a proper plan in place. The lockdown has virtually been wasted because of limited testing and tracing of contacts.

While the populace was told to stay indoors, the government failed to avail basic commodities before the lockdown, forcing many people to throng shopping centres in search of basic commodities.

Social distancing, which has proven internationally to be an effective way of combating the spread of the virus, has therefore not been possible. Ordinary citizens have two choices: either risk contracting the coronavirus or die of hunger. The majority are choosing to deal with the immediate threat — hunger. Mnangagwa has also failed to lead by example, as he has been travelling or receiving donations in the presence of his deputies, undermining his own directive.
Whereas progressive governments have availed large amounts of money to support vulnerable households and struggling companies to preserve jobs while cushioning the poor, the Zimbabwean government has done very little on that front.

In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa this week announced a R500 billion (US$ 2,6 billion) package to protect the economy and vulnerable persons. The broke Mnangagwa administration has no capacity to offer a meaningful package to local industries, thanks to years of bad governance, high level corruption, looting and nepotism.

The epidemic has shown that the Mnangagwa administration is all about empty rhetoric but no delivery.