Asymmetric threats have hit Zimbabwe with repeated frequency. Cyclone Idai, an asymmetric event of extreme levels, left behind a permanent dent in the way of life of our people. Most of our kith and kin were consumed by the event, never to be seen again. Enter Covid-19. This biological threat is now threatening to decimate national security and hence bring to the fore a possible new reality never before seen– government paralysis.
It is beyond any shadow of doubt that the modern threat vector has rendered traditional security structures and systems moribund. This revelation entails that the formulation of the state’s defence strategy, policy and doctrine ought to be adept to these changes.
The country, at the time of writing, had lost four senior government officials, with cause of death being attributed to Covid-19. The astonishing rate of attrition is bringing new realities to the fore. Of primary importance being the efficacy of our current security systems and protocols to confront such asymmetric threats.
Models in place emanate from the national strategic doctrine. Numerous instances and incidents have managed to prove that the current defence posture is reactive rather than preemptive, whilst it is manifestly static in the face of the ever-evolving threat spectrum.
For comparison purposes, the writer had the rare privilege to visit the Crisis Coordination Centre of Australia, in Canberra. Lessons learnt there were fundamental and eye opening. Of paramount importance being recognition of how disaster preparedness is woven and how the security architecture reacts during times of emergency. So humbling it was to note that the Australians are confident that in any disaster situation, they do not expect one soul to be lost.
The Centre is so coordinated and linked to the systems of governance that even the Prime Minister actively participates in disaster situations, the deliberations are relayed to Parliament in real time and necessary systems are activated to issue assistance as and when needed. Despite this, in times of calm, continuous stress tests are conducted, for instance, the level of preparedness to meet forest fires, cyclones and so on. This model is very effective towards confronting these asymmetric threats.
This is different from what we have here. Our parliament is just there. Nothing effective happens there besides petty political turf wars. The nature and kind of laws crafted are not done in real time leaving the burden to the executive to come up with a series of statutory instruments. Local disaster reaction units are not prepared to face the kinds of threats we face at this juncture. The video of the late Genius ‘Ginimbi’ Kadungure’s vehicle being shredded to pieces by equipment borrowed from a local man by the police will forever remain enmeshed in my mind
Let’s make no mistake. Our government is at this point under siege. Covid-19 is waging siege warfare on our government! This is being made worse if one is to consider the most vulnerable categories from available data, the age of our leaders and the quality of life they lead. Besides, the lack of needed preparedness coupled with lack of investment in disaster mitigation and preparedness makes the situation direr.
Probably, a plan is already in place to secure vaccines but with the nature of our road network, distribution will be a tall order as some zones are virtually inaccessible. Corruption has amplified this threat via creating unnecessary opportunity costs. Investments in infrastructure from locally generated resources is ongoing but at a snail’s pace. Covid-19 is decimating our country at a speed never envisaged.
To our leaders, behavioural change must be prioritised. Evidence of them gallivanting and enjoying themselves, partying whilst the rest of the nation is being made to adhere to lockdown regulations makes sad reading. The last thing this country needs is a power vacuum created by Covid-19.
Counter measures must be expedited as soon as possible to stop the carnage presently being witnessed. Waiting for Covax alone will not suffice. Covax’s aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world. It is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO.
Resources, which I believe are being harnessed, must be marshalled towards ensuring that vaccines are secured. Responsibility, at this juncture, is the only way and effective posture available if ever this carnage is to be stopped. Our politicians must now show leadership, come together and look for ways to rally the nation towards having a single coherent method of defeating this cancer.
Covid-19 is warfare. Pragmatism is what is needed. Unity is key. Research is important. We can ill afford to keep on losing lives, regardless of whose they are. Let’s man up and face this menace head on.