BY SILAS NKALA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has come under fire for violating COVID-19 preventive measures after he posed for a photo with a group of Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) graduates at the Ntabazinduna Training Depot on Saturday without masking up or observing social distancing.
The development comes at a time when his government is descending hard on citizens found flouting safety protocols which it prescribed.
Human rights activists described the large gathering at the graduation ceremony as a potential COVID-19 super spreader.
Ibhetshu likaZulu secretary-general Mbuso Fuzwayo said it was highly irresponsible for Mnangagwa to interact with the graduates without observing safety protocols prescribed by his administration.
“All these lockdowns they are doing are to prevent their opponents from being able to reach out to the people. To them dealing with COVID-19 is secondary,” Fuzwayo said.
“What is important is for them to have a foothold on their opponent in reaching out to the voters, but in reality, his activities might be the super spreaders of COVID-19 because he is not even inspiring citizens to put on their masks, so he is a danger to society. We would have expected him to lead by example.”
Human rights activist Effie Ncube said Mnangagwa’s behaviour was not surprising because this was what they had been doing since independence, “where they preach something and act differently”.
“They will commit to the rule of law, the Constitution and respect for human rights, but in practice, they will violate every part of the Constitution and all principles of rule of law and human rights,” Ncube said.
“This is a government that will tell you that corruption is unacceptable, but go out to steal from the people, so you do not expect Zanu PF to speak to its actions. Its actions and what it says is always different.
“This is what we are seeing when it comes to COVID-19. They will tell you that public gatherings are not allowed, that people must wear masks and that they must wash their hands, but they will continue with shows, gatherings that violate the laws they would have made.”
Ncube said the danger was that people would always follow what they do rather than what they say.
He said the behaviour by government officials and their leader was unacceptable and dangerous to the people they were supposed to protect.
Zapu communications director Patrick Ndlovu yesterday said in Zimbabwe, there were two standards, one for Zanu PF and its functionaries and the other for everyone else.
“That has always been the norm, where Zanu PF behaves like the Lord of the Manor while everyone else is a tenant who does as the Lord dictates. He (Mnangagwa) is so enamoured in this false cloak of the empire that he believes he is immune to the virus. We can only watch and not waste our voices because he won’t listen. But as the decimation of his cabal testifies, the virus is taking a heavy toll,” Ndlovu said.
Rural Community Empowerment Trust board member Thembelani Dube said: “The pandemic doesn’t discriminate. It knows no status, race, creed and tribe. COVID-19 kills. The figures of people succumbing to it are on the increase. The recovery rate is nose-diving.”
In related incidents, Health deputy minister John Mangwiro at the weekend also allegedly organised a thanksgiving ceremony for the electorate in his Chikomba West constituency which was attended by a huge crowd of villagers in violation of COVID-19 regulations.
Under the current lockdown measures, gatherings are prohibited and a maximum of 30 people can only gather at a funeral.
One villager said Mangwiro was not physically present at the party, but he sent a representative to act on his behalf.
Mangwiro yesterday denied that he organised the meeting, saying the only gathering that he attended was his mother’s funeral.
“I only attended my mother’s funeral over the weekend. I do not know about the party you are talking about,” he said.
Recently, Local Government minister July Moyo addressed a crowd of war veterans and some party members at a rally in Masvingo where he was campaigning ahead of the 2023 elections.