BY STAFF REPORTER
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday defied COVID-19 safety protocols set by his government after he gathered thousands of people for a cultural event in Gokwe South, hours before his Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who doubles as Health minister, placed City of Kwekwe under a 14-day lockdown following the outbreak of the much-feared Indian variant of the disease in the Midlands city.
The B.1.617 variant was detected in Kwekwe last week after it claimed the life of Robson Kadenhe (76) and infected nine people he came into contact with, including family members.
Kadenhe is believed to have been infected by his niece who had just returned from India. She, too, has tested positive to COVID-19.
The thousands of people, among them villagers, who attended Mnangagwa’s Gokwe event yesterday ignored social distancing regulations while others had no face masks.
“I want to thank you for welcoming me in these huge numbers. When I go back, I will tell the party leadership at the politburo that you love your leadership and you are united,” Mnangagwa said braggingly.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is still here with us and poses a serious threat, we must continue to observe COVID-19 regulations of social distancing like you are right now and of staying at home, I know some of you were unhappy with these regulations, but they have to be observed,” he told the gathering.
Mnangagwa’s government has often been accused of selective application of the law after unleashing police to disrupt opposition MDC Alliance gatherings, citing safety concerns, while allowing ruling Zanu PF meetings to go on uninterrupted.
Chiwenga, in a statement yesterday, said Kwekwe’s lockdown included a dusk-to-dawn curfew, reduced business hours, closure of bars, beerhalls and bottle stores.
He said his ministry would disinfect supermarkets, Amaveni dumpsite, Old Gokwe Road bus terminus, Junk Yard, among others. Quarantine of suspects, vigorous contact-tracing as well as screening of schools would be intensified, he said.