THE Covid-19 pandemic has paralysed government amid reports that Vice-Presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi are unwell, while President Emmerson Mnangagwa spent 14 days in self-isolation in Harare after his close security details, cabinet ministers and top bureaucrats tested positive.
Tinashe Kairiza/Andrew Kunambura
This means that the country was left on auto-pilot as there was no acting President. Mnangagwa had to cut short his annual leave.
Information gathered by the Zimbabwe Independent from senior government and intelligence sources indicates that Mnangagwa’s co-deputies are ill. Top businessman and presidential advisor, Kuda Tagwirei, is also battling the deadly virus.
Mohadi, acted as president before disappearing from the public scene as he was taken ill. It was not immediately clear if Chiwenga was hospitalised or was recuperating from home by the time of going to print.
Zimbabwe is reeling under a second wave of Covid-19 which has claimed over 770 lives, including cabinet ministers and government officials.
Mnangagwa made his first public appearance on Monday at State House where he signed The Africa Factbook.
Sources said the President was forced to return to work to preside over the burial of Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Ellen Gwaradzimba, who died of Covid-19. Liberation struggle stalwart Morton Malianga was also buried at the National Heroes Acre yesterday.
Chiwenga and Mohadi missed the twin burials.
“The president had to self-isolate as a precautionary measure after he felt exposed to the virus since he came into contact with people who tested positive for Covid-19, including ministers, relatives and some of his closest aides. These are people who are always with him. In fact, one of his aides who is part of the close circuit security became seriously ill he had to be hospitalised for a week and is now recuperating from home,” an official source said.
“VPs were absent from the Heroes Acre where two heroes were laid to rest. The reason why the president had to cut short his leave to preside over the event was that the both VPs are not in good shape.
“Mohadi had to be hospitalised two days after he presided over the burial of Brigadier-General Collin Moyo on January 12 after he developed Covid-19 symptoms. He spent a few days in hospital but was discharged on Tuesday and is recuperating from home. Not much is known about VP Chiwenga, but he had to go into self-isolation after contracting the bug.”
Apart from the two vice-presidents, sources said, two cabinet ministers and a Zanu PF politburo member (names supplied) are currently admitted at a private hospital in Harare.
The three reportedly attended Tagwirei’s end of year party.
“One minister’s condition has greatly improved, but the other one is still battling for life and on oxygen support. The politburo member is also in a critical condition and is being closely monitored. These are some of the people who were at the year-end party,” a source said.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade minister Sibusiso Moyo, who succumbed to the disease on Wednesday morning, is reported to have attended the Tagwirei bash.
Moyo became the second cabinet minister to succumb to Covid-19 after Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement minister Perrance Shiri died in August last year.
In terms of World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on the control and management of the pandemic, any infected person should be placed in quarantine until they recover, while anyone who has come into contact with an infected individual should be quarantined for at least 14 days until they test negative.
Mnangagwa went into self-isolation after several members of his security team tested positive for the disease and were sent into self-isolation.
Coronavirus cases have surged dramatically since the beginning of the year, piling pressure on a shambolic health delivery system coupled with an ongoing strike by doctors and nurses at public hospitals.
Zimbabwe is racing against time to craft a comprehensive national vaccination plan, after the African Union (AU) secured 270 million Covid-19 shots for member states through an Afreximbank facility.
Reuters news agency this week reported that each shot would cost between US$3 and US$10 as the continent gears to contain the deadly pandemic that has claimed an estimated 80 000 lives in Africa.
On Wednesday, Information Secretary Nick Mangwana posted on his Twitter handle that government was slowly grinding to a halt.
“From tomorrow 21 January 2021 to 3 February 2021, all Ministries, government Departments and Agencies (except for Health ministry) will be operating with only 10% of its staff. Those who can work from home will be doing that. This is likely to affect the service the public receives,” he wrote.
The cost of accessing treatment is a headache for many as it is out of reach for millions of Zimbabweans.
Inquiries at most private hospitals show that it is now mandatory for patients to go through a Covid-19 test, regardless of ailments, at a cost of between US$30 and US$60.
Hard-pressed patients are parting ways with a minimum of US$1 500 to be admitted to private hospitals and an additional fee of US$500 for the doctor. An administration officer at a private hospital in the capital said the cost of being admitted and treated for Covid-19 hovers around US$3 000.
“I understand to be admitted into an institution for Covid-19 treatment costs around US$3 000 cash. People can’t afford and they are just dying at home,” said the administrator, who cannot be named for professional reasons.
With the steep cost of treatment, many households are being forced to try home remedies to fight Covid-19.
Repeated efforts to get comments from presidential spokesperson George Charamba and Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa were fruitless as their mobile phones were not reachable. They did not respond to questions sent via SMS by the time of going to print.