Time to ask Zimbabwe Government serious questions on COVID-19 preparedness

In a time of crisis such as we have with the coronavirus pandemic “unity of purpose” with the government and holding the decisions being made and taken at this time of crisis is necessary. The government must still be held accountable during this crisis. Therefore, questions, indeed, even awkward questions must be asked.

The media and all politicians of all political parties have a duty to push hard: why have promises made months ago still not been kept? Is the government telling us the truth with regards the nations preparedness vis-à-vis the fight against coronavirus?

Do we have ventilators and enough testing kits? What has been received thus far? Are our hospitals ready and our medical staff equipped with adequate (PPE) for this virus?

Why is testing still so sporadic, in spite of almost daily promises to “ramp it up”? Why does it look like the Ministry of Health is only focusing much attention on Harare and Wilkins Hospital in particular? Why is there little or no mention of other cities and towns?
How can we judge our infection and fatality rates against other countries when we don’t test as much, who is really being tested and what criteria is being used to select who gets tested?

More people have been arrested in Zimbabwe for breaking lockdown rules than those tested during the lockdown. Something is not right and indeed, this begs questioning.

We as Zimbabweans (collectively) have allowed a complacent government to set the agenda of what is up for discussion and too many journalists and politicians have just fallen into step.

Asking difficult questions about the ongoing strategy is not carping. It is essential. Questions, should be asked about the thinking behind a lockdown without the necessary planning and preparations for feeding the citizens.

What were the support mechanisms and infrastructure (if any) were put in place to help the hungry during this time of crisis? Truth is if basic livelihoods cannot be secured, a comprehensive lockdown is not practical. Poor people will prefer the lottery of infection over the certainty of starvation.

Indeed, Zimbabwe needs chapter and verse on procurement of every piece of equipment, frank and clear explanations of “the science”, and an honest appraisal of where we think this coronavirus is going. And the nations response to it.

When should we expect government to start to loosen restrictions on this police and army enforced lockdown?
How are the millions of dollars promised by the minister Mthuli Ncube being distributed? Is the money reaching the people? How much has been paid out and to who?
What do casual workers do if their jobs have disappeared? What happens to the self-employed/ informal traders who depend on daily grind? How long must they wait for cash to put food on the table?

Now is the time to ask these questions. Indeed, a task force has been set up to coordinate and tackle this virus in Zimbabwe, but what good is a task force without the necessary resources? It was interesting to see Honourable Temba Mliswa confronting the government’s COVID-19 national task force for failing to provide frontline staff fighting to curb the spread of the disease with basic provisions such as soap.
The MP said this was exposing medical staff to the risk of contracting the deadly COVID-19 disease.

I couldn’t agree more with the honourable MP for Norton. In my view this is akin to an ambulance crew who arrive at a scene of an accident with a man trapped inside a crushed car bleeding profusely. The ambulance crew are trying to remove the trapped man from the wreckage and stop him from bleeding to death , but people watching from the street cry: “Use bandages to stop the bleeding …”
“Tell me about it,” says the head of the ambulance crew attending to the bleeding man. “My crew is doing its best, trying to save the man, but they’re risking their lives using bare hands handling blood with no protection.”
One bystander rushes to the ministry of health and asks to see Obadiah Moyo. “Why don’t you give the ambulance crew gloves and bandages?
“Now is not the time for such questions,” says the minister of health. “There will be gloves, bandages and all necessary apparatus next week. We’re buying lots from all over the place. We’ll do whatever it takes.”
“But that man in the car wreckage is dying now. You must act now.” Such is our case in Zimbabwe politicians are setting up task force after task force, promising all sorts to fight this coronavirus but little is being shown on the ground to prove preparedness.

There is no patriotic requirement to “get behind the government” and no reason not to challenge its handling of this crisis. Indeed, there is a moral duty to question it at every turn, to make sure the best decisions are being made.
Where is Nelson Chamisa? Where are those mandated to challenge government decisions/ the opposition? Where are the ever vocal NGO’s and activists who usually have a lot to say?
It is not careless talk that could cost lives, but silent acquiescence. Yet at briefing after briefing, those in power are insisting “now is not the time” to ask awkward questions.
Asking these awkward and pertinent questions at this time of crisis is not point scoring. It is a necessary thing to do let’s hold those in leadership to account even at this critical time of a pandemic.

Those with the unenviable task of dealing with this national emergency doubtless believe they’re doing “whatever it takes”. But we must still ask hard questions now – just to make sure – while lives can be saved. Rather than at inquests and public inquiries in years to come.

Zimbabwe’s health system is already overstretched. Covid-19 demands an emergency response at scale and that begins with the government, we have seen some churches and some private organisations stepping up to help and that is appreciated.
All hospitals and clinics in Zimbabwe need testing kits, basic materials for hygiene, personal protective equipment for the professional health workers, and equipment for assisted breathing.
There is a global shortage of all of these and a shameful scramble among developed countries to get their own supplies is raging on- relegating Africa to the back of the queue. So where is Zimbabwe on this?