An interesting perspective is emerging from within the realms of the faith. Prominent clerics have been at each other’s throats, dishing out what some perceive to be conspiracies and what their followers believe to be biblical revelation.
The eloquent Bulawayo-based cleric and scholar, Dr Ian Ndlovu is on record saying God unleashed knowledge to scientists such that they may discover a vaccine that will defeat the virus even before the end of the year 2021. Pastor Talent Chiwenga is having a go at Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa, suggesting that he got absolutely nothing to say about issues of science. Chiwenga takes his stance further by noting that instead of using anointing oil to sanitise hands, Makandiwa is using hand sanitisers proving that anointing oil was a hoax.
The interesting clash between men of faith and the diversified nature of their views within the broader domain of the fight against Covid-19 raises serious national issues. These people are very influential, they have a very loyal base of followers and are so convincing in how they strut their stuff. What they tell their congregants can help quell the spread of the disease or, in hindsight, amplify its spread.
It is worrisome to note that numerous conspiracies are being thrown around about the intention of vaccinating people. There is one that insinuates that these vaccines are engineered to wipe out Africans. This is very unfortunate for numerous vaccines originating from these same countries have been used by Africans before. Medication used in Africa is shipped from the same sources that are developing vaccines aimed at fighting Covid-19. Had these people been hellbent on killing Africans with vaccines and drugs, they definitely would not have waited for Covid-19 to emerge.
Another self-ordained prophet, Passion Java added his voice by suggesting that he himself was going to be vaccinated in Dubai and proceeded to encourage everyone to get vaccinated.
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa added his voice to the Covid-19 conundrum. The politician-cum-pastor, in a virtual address dubbed “Fight Against Covid-19
Address to the Nation” implored the government to allow churches to open so that they can pray for the country. As a secular state, Zimbabwe is one country that respects all religions, outside of Satanism, of course. Respect for religion must compliment scientific efforts at this juncture. Epidemiologists are encouraging social distancing, noting that the reproduction rate of the disease is being contained, from proven data, by a strict adherence to WHO guidelines.
These guidelines call upon everybody, including pastors, lawyers, scientists, doctors, farmers, touts etc to mask up, sanitise and socially distance whilst respecting government regulations.
The regulations are not discriminatory but are aimed at stopping the carnage being witnessed. For instance, there is ongoing realisation that the January 5, 2021 lockdown regulations, which have since been extended by another two weeks, managed to contain the virulent South African strain that had wreaked havoc in Zimbabwe, overwhelming entire systems whilst leading to loss of life.
Paradoxically, it is evident that our strength as a prayerful nation can be our source of weakness and vulnerability if we sacrifise science on the altar of populism
Innovative ways of engagement must be adopted by institutions if ever they are to reach out to their audiences. Schools are adopting e-learning whilst churches are reaching out to their wider audiences via chat rooms, WhatsApp groups and even live streams. Gathering people is not what the doctor ordered at this point in time. Decongestion of facilities is one way of ensuring the debilitating impacts of the disease do not consume us. Allowing churches to gather is definitely not one of them
Whilst recognising the importance of prayer, it is prudent that we stand guided by what has proven to be effective this far. We all need to pray. We can do that, in these disaster times, at home and once the situation normalises, we can resort back to normal life.
From a national security standpoint, hoaxes, propaganda, fake news and conspiracies are proving to be omnipresent threats in the fight against Covid-19. The implication of this infodemic being that it creates and amplifies terror. These biological threats, whether man made or naturally occurring, have got a terrifying effect that if not managed well, entire communities will tremble in trepidation at the mere mention of them, in this case Covid-19
There is a need for behavioural change whilst misinformation must be nipped in the bud. It will be a travesty of justice to have people shying away from being vaccinated due to wrong information. A person is free to make a choice. That choice must be premised on factual and correct information and not malicious half truths and brazen inaccuracies