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ZAPU, LEAD react to COVID-19

18 Apr 2020 at 07:40hrs | Views
Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) spokesperson Iphuthule Maphosa (IM) and Labour Economists and Afrikan Democrats leader Linda Masarira (LM) have today aired their perception of the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic in an exclusive interview.

To what extent do you think COVID-19 has exposed the waywardness of the government and African governments at large?

IM: The Covid-19 pandemic has caught our countries flat footed with absolutely no capacity to contain and eradicate the virus caused disease. Mitigatory measures that help first to flatten the curve and also contain the pandemic involve social distancing and staying at home and we have seen African governments imposing unplanned sweeping blanket lockdowns on a citizenry with no basic needs such as water, energy and food. The people who live by each day from hand to mouth are left with a choice between starving and taking a chance with the virus while hustling for a dollar for the next meal.  

LM: From my own understanding COVID-19 is a new disease that has caught the whole world unaware. If we are to be fair enough with ourselves we really have to admit that our own Zimbabwean government and other African countries have sensibly responded to the pandemic. However, it must be noted that to a greater extent our governments" over reliance on foreign aid have left us in a compromised manner as those whom we used to rely on for aid are also being overwhelmed by the COVID-19 in their own home grounds.

Do you think Zimbabwe will be able to curb the pandemic as well as Africa?

IM: Zimbabwe is totally unprepared to deal with this pandemic. As we speak, only one testing centre is running in Harare with so much rhetoric on decentralizing testing but with no movement in that direction. This is because to begin with, we do not have sufficient capacity to test, while we also do not have isolation centres except at Wilkins, with the centre's preparedness also in great doubt.
Financially, we are just broke as a country and we rely on charity, whose proceeds are also being looted by the political elite before it gets to intended beneficiaries. Political polarization between ZANU-PF and MDC-A has contributed in minimizing our chances of winning against yhe pandemic as tbe two have found a podium to grandstand and pontificate over the suffering masses.

Until and unless citizens take it upon themselves and practice preventive methods, we surely cannot win with the leadership we have. Same for Africa, with exceptions in South Africa, Rwanda and Tanzania who seem to be more determined to save lives than political careers.

LM: Zimbabwe"s ability to restrain and or control COVID-19 is highly dependant on the willingness to comply with government"s efforts. It is of paramount importance that we note and or realize that the government efforts need to be realistic in terms of poverty and hunger cushioning. The same applies to the context of Africa as a continent in admission of the fact that we have no capacity to cure the pandemic on our own in our current divided state.

Do you think the current stats of COVID-19 cases in Africa are a true reflection?

IM: No, we do not have adequate screening and testing capacity to obtain the true reflection of the picture. However, our infection rates are definitely relatively lower that the rest of the world. We need to capacitate our health systems and we may get the real figures of infections.
LM: Very much on point. The fact that even in foreign countries Africans are not being affected at an economic scale is evidence to those who don"t believe in African countries' ability to compile true and reliable statistics.

In your view, what are the most imminent things that African countries should instigate in this COVID-19 pandemic?

IM: Invest in healthcare infrastructure to regain confidence and capacity in our local health systems and create social net funds to cushion the vulnerable from shocks such as being effected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The most repercussions are of health and economic nature and the governments in Africa need to quickly adapt to the new order and invest in areas of social service delivery and indigenous  economic development to make the continent competitive on the global market. The 4IR must be embraced and investment directed towards its accessibility by all Africans.

LM: An examination into the vulnerability of poor households to food insecurity in the challenging urban environment of Harare for example shows a city and country faced with serious hunger threats. In light of this, the African governments have to provide social security to their citizens. African countries should envisage sustainable policies like Kagame has done in Rwanda. And general policies to educate the natives should be espoused.

Do you think Zimbabwe and other African countries will be able to come out of this COVID-19 pandemic without major sociopolitical and economic repercussions?

IM: The socio-politica as well as economic repercussions are so major and massive for the African continent. Rememver the pandemic finds most economies struggling with that of Zimbabwe in comatose.

Socially, the masses who already are in poverty will be restless and this will lead to political instability across the continent. It will take brave leadership and creativity to pluck the African economies out of the ditch the virus is set to cause, with unemployment and closure of small businesses already taking its toll. So, Africa and indeed Zimbabwe should brace for instability in the not so distance future.

LM: We don't think so. Zimbabwe is likely to be hard hit by this pandemic largely due to warped policies and the repercussions can be far-reaching. From the current look of things fate seems to be in our favour but the  African governments should not relax but rather do everything in their vicinity to avoid letting the situation getting out of hand.

If you were the leader or President of Zimbabwe what would you do in this pandemic to help avert the repercussions of COVID-19 and what measures would you put in place to curb the spread of the disease?

IM: First port of call would be capacitating of our hospitals and health professional in fighting the pandemic. Every resource and energy would be directed at this under the state of disaster instrument in place.

For mitigation measures to succeed, I would set up a social safety net fund to cater for all affected sectors such as business, both large and small, the informal economy, the economically vulnerable such as the unemployed and the poor. Noting that the country is suffering from hunger, I would provide food handouts to all households for the duration of the lock down period.

With our economy highly informal, I would impose partial lockdown while shutting down hot spots only. This would help the economy preserve the little breath it has by having other areas of the country less affected becoming buffer zones to the rest of the economy.
In this case, only major cities of Harare and Bulawayo could be on shut down to allow the rest of the country to at the very least function albeit under strict social distancing conditions. It would have helped contain the virus in a limited area while the economy still performed than is the situation now.

Screening and testing would have been long devolved to provinces and district to allow a faster turn around on cases and timely response to suspected cases. Telecommunication services providers would be roped in to assist in tracing and  tracking contacts of infected cases, unlike the current set up.

LM: In my current capacity as leader of the Labour Economists and Afrikan Democrats together with my team we are working tirelessly to create a database of those vulnerable families that we can afford reaching out to and distribute the few we have. Considering this it can be concluded therefore that I were occupying the highest office of the land I would direct government efforts towards this project and possibly achieve more.

If you were the leader of the African Union (AU) what would you do in this pandemic to help avert the repercussions of COVID-19 and what measures would you put in place to curb the spread of the disease?

IM: Africa should have had a universal response strategy to this pandemic. This would have allowed pooling of resources and ideas into one basket with every country implementing a uniform set of mitigatory measures. This helps eradicate or at the very least containing the virus at the same time and rate to curb uncontrolled and surprise outbreaks due to country to country contamination.

As leader of AU, I would have set up a universal task force at that level to formulate a strategy for Africa with economic blocks like SADC, ECOWAS, Arab League and COMESA becoming sub regional task force committees to implement the strategy at regional and local levels. An African orientated sovereign fund for disaster management would be opened and through that, the strategy will be funded. This fund will also bail out the African economy from the adverse effects of the pandemic.

LM: I would concentrate my efforts towards hunger eradication while at the same time urging African governments to invest in research and production.

Why do you think Africa has the lowest number of COVID-19 cases in the world?

IM: It could be many reasons but the highest probability is that travel restrictions were effected before the continent suffered much contamination. However, realising that nobody has yet been able to comprehebsively study and understand the Coronavirus, it could have affected Africa for different other reasons not yet known. We all are still learning about the virus while at the same time fighting its spread, so there is bound to be confusions such as this one.

LM: If we are to take into consideration the racial comments by the two Italian doctors it can simply be noted that science has no explanation for this which leaves us relying on the spiritual fact that as Africa, we are not children of a lesser God.

What message would you like to relate with Zimbabwe and Africa at large with regards to COVID-19?

IM: The Zimbabwean government should invest in  important social service deliverables such as health, social security and also the economic revival. This pandemic must be a wake up call to our political leadership who should forthwith discard their corrupt activities abd prioritize developmebt.

To citizens, it is upon each one of us to fight and win against this pandemic. Our government cannot be relied on for they have no capacity to help us in any way, with the health care infrastructure having gone down the drain in their hands,  so it is important as citizens that we mitigate against the spread of the virus as individuals, households and local communities. Prevention is our best alternative.

LM: This COVID-19 pandemic should give us a wake up call as Zimbabweans and Africans in particular especially the elite that no one is more human than others and those in positions of power must work to deliver for the betterment of our people because some day at some point we will require those local services. Let us all comply with the instructions to remain indoors and not hide any dubious cases that will become malignant.  

Source - Daniel Itai
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