Coronavirus targets politicians across Southern Africa


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Across the entire Southern Africa region, Zimbabwe apparently comes after South Africa in terms of the number of government officials who have so far died of coronavirus.

Government’s key leader in the country’s response to COVID-19, South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu also succumbed to COVID-19 on 21 Januay this year.

In fact, by the end of December last year, 11 political figures died of COVID-19 in South Africa, with the first prominent political personality to die there being Gordon Kegakilwe, the North West Province’s Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs Member of Executive Council (MEC).

In Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, the country’s Prime Minister, Ambrose Dlamini, also succumbed to coronavirus last year in December, making him the first head of government to die of COVID-19.

On 23 January, Makhosi Vilakati, a legislator in the parliament of Eswathini, succumbed to coronavirus, said Themba Masuku, the country’s acting Prime Minister.

A week before Vilakati died, another Eswathini minister who headed the country’s public service, Christian Ntshangase, was also killed by coronavirus.

With a current record of over 200 coronavirus deaths, on  12 January Malawi, whose President recently overruled a court judgement that halted lockdown in the impoverished African nation, lost two senior cabinet ministers and two other senior political figures to COVID-19.

Even as hundreds of Zimbabweans have lost their lives to COVID-19, government ministers like Oppah Muchinguri courted controversy after claiming coronavirus was brought by God to punish the then US President Donald Trump and other Western countries that slapped Zimbabwe with economic sanctions.

“Coronavirus is the work of God, punishing countries that imposed sanctions on us. They are now keeping indoors. Their economies are screaming just like they did to ours. Trump should know that he is not God,” Muchinguri said this last year at a political rally in Chinhoyi, a town 120 kilometers west of Harare.

But hit to the core by the deaths of his ministers, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa in a recent televised address to the nation said: “The pandemic has been indiscriminate…there are no spectators, adjudicators, no holier than thou, no supermen or superwomen, we are all exposed.”

Yet Elvis Mugari, a known opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance activist, said: “The national address by Mnangagwa was a clear testimony that he has no plan to surmount coronavirus.”

Obey Sithole, the opposition MDC Alliance Youth Assembly National Chairperson, said: “This pandemic needs not only press statements and promises, but needs leadership and action.”

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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