Chamisa says ‘we’re in a crisis’

Nelson Chamisa

OPPOSITION MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa says information on the ground, particularly in rural areas, was pointing to a dire situation in the country, hence the need for government to stop politicking and come up with good strategies to win the Covid-19 battle.

Chamisa yesterday told NewsDay that the Covid-19 situation in the country was getting out of hand, thus the need for a more serious approach to deal with the pandemic instead of politicking at a time when the deadly disease has killed over 2 600 people in Zimbabwe.

“It can’t be business as usual. It is business unusual,” Chamisa said.

“Take every place as a potential hotspot and every gathering as a super spreader.

“There must be a very clear programme of action, and I get disturbed with the situation in hospitals. There are no oxygen facilities in many of them and the poor are exposed.”

He added: It is expensive to get admitted in a hospital these days and how many people can afford it? The situation is dire, especially in rural areas. Families are affected and it is a real emergency, a real disaster that requires self-leadership.

“This thing of seeking to weaponise Covid-19 is an act of desperation. You can’t seek to profit from a dire situation like this that is threatening to wipe out a whole nation, a generation.”

The MDC Alliance leader said the situation at public hospitals was dire, hence the need to improve the health delivery system in the country.

“It’s only in a banana republic where there is an attempt to make Covid-19 a victory,” Chamisa said.

He said authorities should address the public transport disaster as thousands of Zimbabweans continued to be exposed in queues and in Zupco buses that were allowed to operate, but are overwhelmed due to high demand.

“This is a proper case of emergency and the nation must now be in a crisis mode. We can’t be in a lackadaisical mode, and we have to change the way we do things,” he said.

Government recently yesterday sensationally claimed that the opposition Chamisa’s MDC was stuck with over half a million “unregistered Covid-19 vaccines” which it allegedly received from the United States embassy in Ha rare to inoculate its party supporters.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba made the claims on his Twitter handle @Jamwanda2, adding that the party’s top executives were now desperate to have the vac cine formally registered with local health authorities.

But the opposition party rubbished the claims, and accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration of “politick ing over a Covid-19 crisis”.

“MDC Alliance is in a bit of a bind which it now seeks to resolve, abortively aided by the undiplomatic US man here,” Charamba said.

“They have been given two tranches of American vaccines, in total amounting to half a mil lion doses, for a political vaccination programme through which they hope to checkmate the good will that has accrued to ZanuPF through a sprite public vaccination programme.

“The two vaccines they have been given are not registered in Zimbabwe. Therein lies their dilemma. The laws of the country do not allow importation of unregistered vaccines.”

Charamba claimed the US embassy’s strategy was to “stampede” the Health ministry to force government to accept importation and administration of unregistered vaccines, using the Covax facility.

“This would then provide cover to this political donation. Unfortunately for them, Chinese, Russian and Indian vaccines, which are now registered for use in the country, are now registered with the WHO [World Health Organisation], making them part of the Covax menu. Zimbabwe insists that any assistance under Covax limits itself to those registered vaccines.”

Charamba alleged that a “top embassy official” wrote directly to the Health ministry hoping to get a directive.

“In terms of diplomatic communication etiquette, embassies write to line ministries through Foreign Office, a route which this top embassy official decided to sidestep out of desperation. Of course, (the) Foreign ministry was not amused and rapped knuckles of the official.

“Meanwhile MDC Alliance stands unstuck and transfixed, with the item getting repeatedly deferred at their top meeting. Upshot: the new, frenetic provaccination messaging by the MDC Alliance officials and party is not a change of heart or greater public health awareness. It is political,” said Charamba, who declined to give finer details when NewsDay called him for comment.

MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere rubbished Charamba’s assertions.

“There is no truth whatsoever to this. The MDC Alliance has not received vaccines from any person or organisation. It’s a matter of regret that government officials are politicking over such an important is sue given the vaccination hesitancy that needs to be addressed,” she said.

“As far as we are concerned, the priority is to save lives. So we urge every person to observe all COV ID19 protocols. Mask up, sanitise, and practise social distancing. Get vaccinated. No life should be lost when it can be avoided.”

A source privy to the matter said it was the Zimbabwean government that rejected a donation of the Johnson and Johnson vac cine from the US at a time when the southern African country is struggling to secure adequate vaccines to achieve its targeted 60% herd immunity.

In June, Finance ministry secretary George Guvamatanga wrote to Afreximbank regional chief operations officer Humphrey Nwugo expressing disinterest in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“The government of Zimbabwe notes that there is an allocation of the Johnson and Johnson vac cine due for August 2021. However, I wish to advise that the government of Zimbabwe is not yet ready to participate in the August allocation as measures are still being put in place to establish the cold chain management framework for the vaccines, as well as on management of the anticipated adverse effects of the vaccine following inoculation,” he wrote.

NewsDay has also established that the US had offered to donate over 155 000 vaccines to Zimbabwe to aid the fight against the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, but the offer was turned down.

The snub reportedly irked top US officials, who felt the ZanuPF government was insincere as it was struggling to reach its target in vaccinating the nation that is now under siege as the virus is wreaking havoc.

The US embassy was expected to issue a statement over the matter late last night.

Before Charamba’s diatribe, suspended Harare mayor Jacob Mafume, MDC Alliance secretary general Chalton Hwende and the party’s international relations secretary Gladys Hlatywayo had taken to social media exhorting their members to get vaccinated, adding that council clinics should embrace all WHO approved vaccines.

“These are extraordinary times. We have to be vaccinated at a fast er pace to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Like Hwende, I have had mine to give our bodies a fighting chance. All and any vaccines are a must. All council clinics should have them,” Mafume tweet ed.

In February this year, government rejected a vaccine donation sourced by British ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson through the Covax facility, with Charamba describing it as “vacuous”.

Zimbabwe has opted for vaccines from its friendly countries that include China, India and Russia.

Source – newsday

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