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The fight against COVID-19 is everyone's responsibility

19 Jul 2021 at 12:35hrs | Views
The first Saturday of this month saw local author, film maker and anti-Government activist, Tsitsi Dangarembwa, getting her first COVID-19 vaccination jab at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare. She did not waste the opportunity to use the experience to fight Government using the social media. She used the pandemic to cast aspersion on Government's otherwise proud record in handling COVID-19, which has even been hailed by our perennial critics.

"Finally queuing for my vaccination at Pari.  There's no order. People standing around, staff have just arrived, no one telling us anything.  It's going to be hours waiting.  I've brought a chair so I can work, but not even enough order for that.  Typical Zimbabwean chaos," she tweeted bitterly at 0814hours that morning.
Dangarembwa is not alone. She is part of a group of Zimbabweans who have gained some celebrity status and, instead of using it to build their nation, they are using their fame to drive negativity. Others in the same category include journalist, Hopewell Chin'ono. The fight against COVID-19 is not Government's responsibility alone. Instead of sitting on a chair to work on her next manuscript, a responsible citizen faced with the situation that she claimed she encountered at Parirenyatwa Hospital, would take the lead in organising fellow citizens in a proper queue.

Her fame is useless if it is only reserved for global cameras at award ceremonies held in Western capitals. Dangarembwa is an influencer. If she asked fellow citizens to properly queue up they would listen to her, but she chose to play to the gallery as the activist in her got excited by the sight of a crowd of other citizens. She had the golden opportunities to use the gathering to educate fellow citizens on the need to continue observing COVID-19 safety protocols even when one is vaccinated. Dangarembwa's tweet betrays the fact that the well-travelled elite Zimbabwean writer is yet to acknowledge her power of influence as a Zimbabwean celebrity. In response to her tweet, some even questioned why she had to get her jab at Parirenyatwa instead of a private institution given her socio-economic standing.

This brings in another dimension of Zimbabwean influencers' misuse of the power they wield over their admirers and supporters. In February this year, Chin'ono disparagingly described the Chinese vaccines that Zimbabwe is using as "chinhu chavo chekuChina" when he was questioning the legality of possible mandatory vaccination. A few weeks later, he was to tweet that he had "received the Sinopharm" jab and how vaccines were "the only defence available to avoid getting seriously ill" if one contracts the deadly virus. His case shows how citizens can choose to fight the virus on the same side as Government instead of using the pandemic to fight the authorities, although his sincerity was doubtful. Like Dangarembwa, his decision to get vaccinated was most likely driven by the realisation that the Western vaccines that people like him were waiting for were unlikely to be authorised for use in Zimbabwe anytime soon.

Outside of ZANU PF, one faction or the other of the MDC formations command a considerable following as election results have shown over the past 20 years. Instead of using its influence among the impressionable youths to spread the important message of the need to religiously follow COVID-19 safety precautions and getting vaccinated, the opposition's leaders were on the forefront of sowing doubt among Zimbabweans over the efficacy of Chinese vaccines during the day. At the same time, they would be quietly getting vaccinated either at public vaccinations points like the Wilkins Hospital in Harare or getting their jabs at various foreign embassies.

One senior MDC Alliance member, who was exposed for this is that faction's deputy national chairperson, Job Sikhala. Like Chin'ono and Dangarembwa, the opposition faction is using the pandemic to fight Government politically when it is detrimental to peoples' lives to assume such a stance. A well-meaning opposition party joins hands with Government in fighting a common enemy such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The MDC Alliance would want a scenario where Zimbabweans perish in huge numbers so that it can criticise President Emmerson Mnangagwa and ZANU PF than join hands with Government. The faction values powers more than the people from whom that power comes.

In May last year, the World Bank announced its intention to provide US$7 million to Zimbabwe to help the country fight the spread of coronavirus. Many remember how the MDC Alliance co-vice president, Tendai Biti quickly wrote to the Bretton Woods lender for it to attach tough conditions for the country to access the funds at a time that the nation needs every cent it can get to fight the pandemic. Like other anti-Government elements, Biti sought to politicise the issue instead of joining in the fight against the pandemic.

Apart from people like Biti, Chin'ono and Dangarembwa, together with some private media players have been using the pandemic to fight Government spiritedly. Who would forget how the 10 February 2021 edition of the NewsDay screamed, "We don't know what vaccine to buy: Govt" when Government had already secured its first batch of vaccines that arrived only five days later.

The media are a very key player in critical times such as the ones that the world is going through. Media houses that are aware that they thrive because people exist, unhesitatingly join hands with authorities in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, but not so with NewsDay. Recently World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently commented that "variants are currently winning the race against vaccines because of inequitable vaccine production and distribution, which also threatens the global economic recovery." When NewsDay published an article on the matter on 8 July 2021, it shamelessly and sensationally claimed 'Vaccines failing to match new variants' in a headline.

Ghebreyesus never said that vaccines were failing to tackle the new virus variants. He attributed the temporary scenario to "inequitable vaccine production and distribution", but the publication shamelessly twisted this to suit the agenda of its Western handlers and used a headline, which created the wrong and non-existent impression that the available vaccines were failing to contain the new COVID-19 virus variants further alienating those who were contemplating getting inoculated. However, not many were surprised. Since the onset of the pandemic the newspaper and its sister publications have never hidden their agenda of fighting any Eastern solutions in the vain and misplaced hope that some Western big pharma's vaccine brands could secure a stranglehold over Zimbabwe's vaccine and other pharmaceuticals market.  

Even at individual level, iwe neni tine basa/ mina lawe silo umsebenzi (you and I have a duty), as ZANU PF cadres would put it. Before joining perennial whiners like Dangarembwa in putting their lips together to criticise Government for the prevailing high infection and fatality numbers as well as the long vaccination queues, citizens should take a long and hard look at the man or woman in the mirror and ask some very hard and uncomfortable questions. They should ask themselves what they are doing within their households, communities, workplaces, cities and towns to keep the figures down.

It is everyone's duty to fight the pandemic starting with wherever one is and with whatever one has. Zimbabwean citizens should get basics right before blaming Government of not doing enough to stem the pandemic's third wave tide. The Ministry of Health and Child Care has been advising the nation on the basic COVOD-19 basic safety protocols like wearing masks, maintaining social distance, washing hands with running water regularly and avoiding crowded places among others. It is easy to blame Government for the current spate of infections and fatalities and even politicise the global pandemic, but Government cannot wear a face mask correctly for every citizen.

Fighting COVID-19 starts with an individual citizen's behaviour. Government ensured that the current lockdown did not mean locking down the economy. However, whether or not Zimbabwe is forced to move to a full lockdown is determined by the net effect of the country's behaviour. A trader who is complaining of how the lockdown has lowered the demand for his or her wares is key in determining whether or not his or her business survives by the way he or she behaves. If he or she is being careless he or she contributes to high figures that can push Government to impose even stricter measures.

It is a serious indictment against some Zimbabweans that they need to be arrested and fined in order for them to follow COVID-19 safety protocols for the sake of their own health and lives. Serious citizens take the pandemic very seriously. They take the ongoing vaccination programme seriously by getting inoculated and by encouraging others to do the same. This is the only way the country can win over the pandemic. This is because victory over the deadly virus lies within each citizen.

Source - Nobleman Runyanga
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