Letters to the Editor
Just when the world thought it had rid itself of one unsavoury Twitter fiend, Zimbabweans are having to deal with their very own - an empty vessel making the loudest noise - and it is not the first time.
At a time when Zimbabwe is facing its most challenging crisis yet (the pandemic) - the country is also having to tackle deep-seated political and economic issues, as well as an ailing healthcare system which the government is accused of breaking.
The last thing the country needs right now is irresponsible commentary from government officials whose business should be finding ways to support healthcare professionals rather than belittling their efforts.
Perhaps what is more disconcerting is the bewildering comments made by Nick Mangwana, the country's Information Secretary who on Sunday, in response to a tweet, said: “This is what’s leading to the unfortunate conspiracy theory that there are certain political players being eliminated in hospitals by political activists hiding behind medical qualifications. In fact not just political players but medical assassins.”
For Mangwana to suggest that several cabinet ministers, who died recently as a result of Covid, had in fact been "eliminated" by "medical assassins", is not only defamatory, it is offensive. The truth is, he is everything that is wrong with the Zimbabwean government right now.
In the midst of a global crisis, healthcare workers are risking their lives every single day, to protect the lives of others, including the very ministers who often seek medical assistance overseas because they don't rely on the system that they have destroyed.
Missed opportunities, misguided leadership, a lack of adequate PPE and medical resources have left so many on the frontline balancing their sense of duty with increasing risks as they battle a new variant, so l find Mangwana's statement very callous, especially for someone who, not so long ago, worked in the very sector he now thinks so little of.
Not only that, healthcare personnel are also dying due to a lack of personal protective equipment, medical facilities and oxygen. Should we be calling the government 'assassins' as well for failing to provide the essentials that they need?
There has been widespread criticism from medical professionals and civic groups who have condemned him and rightly so. His comments were unbecoming of someone in his position. More so, extremely demoralising for frontline workers, who in some cases, are understaffed and fighting hard to save lives without adequate resources.
Sorry not sorry
While he has apologised, his apology, in my opinion is shameful. In a tweet on Monday, following the backlash, he said he "had no intention to offend", and said he hoped Zimbabweans could "move on and not be distracted from the work at hand".
He 'fanned the flames' of an already intense situation and has the temerity to tell people to move on and not get "distracted" by the work at hand? That is not an apology nor is it remorseful.
Medical staff need to be provided with adequate resources to do their jobs effectively.
Zimbabwe needs a robust plan
Zimbabwe is among the most ill-prepared countries in the fight against the virus and the country has only demonstrated what happens when a crisis as big as Covid-19 is met with a dilapidated system.The truth is, if robust measures are not put in place, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better and it is the citizens who will suffer the most in the long-term.
Two decades of economic stagnation has left Zimbabwe with few resources to face the pandemic. The country needs to ramp up on testing and medical staff need to be provided with adequate resources to do their jobs effectively.
Just over 30,000 cases have been reported but there are more than 900 deaths that have been confirmed so far and the death toll continues to rise.
The government needs to be doing more and they need to recognise the hard work and critical role being played by healthcare workers.
We all need to be working collaboratively to fight this virus, rather than throwing around accusations and conspiracy theories about the very people doing their best under extremely difficult circumstances.