by MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare
HARARE – COMMENTS by a cabinet minister and chairperson of the ruling party that the coronavirus (COVID-19) was God’s punishment on the United States and the West for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe have further polarised the Southern African country.
Defence Minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, made the sentiments while addressing veterans of the country’s liberation at the Mashonaland West capital, Chinhoyi, last weekend.
“This coronavirus that has come are sanctions against the countries that have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe,” Muchinguri-Kashiri, who is also the chairperson of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) said.
“God is now punishing them (the US). They are staying indoors now, while their economy is screaming like what they did to ours by imposing sanctions on us. The US President (Donald Trump) should know that he is not God. They must face the consequences of coronavirus so that they also feel the pain (felt by Zimbabwe),” Muchinguri-Kashiri further said.
The Washington imposed restrictions under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (2001) following Harare embarked on its land reform program in 2000.
Muchinguri-Kashiri has received a backlash from some Zimbabweans.
Prof. Eldred Masunungure, University of Zimbabwe (UZ) political scientist, denounced the statements as reckless.
“It is totally an irresponsible statement. We could have expected it from someone, not a grandmother holding such a big position,” the professor said.
“Coronavirus is affecting everyone, whether saints or sinners. It is indiscriminate. Zimbabwe can be affected as well. This was a poorly thought message, if it was thought through at all. The best she can do is to withdraw it,” Masungungure said.
No COVID-19 cases have been reported in Zimbabwe. The US had recorded 116 deaths to date from 6,524 confirmed cases at the time of publication.
Everjoice Win, a feminist, also censured Muchinguri-Kashiri.
“Zimbabweans, tell me our Minister of Defence did not say that stuff about corona being retribution for sanctions (encounter). Tell me, it is ‘voice-shopped’, if such exists. What level of idiocy does this regime (ZANU-PF) breed,” Win tweeted.
However, some liberation veterans backed the beleaguered minister.
“Our Minister of Defence is simply reminding the Western countries who are bullying small countries that the global village has no room for making fellow villagers suffer for their political and neo-colonial expediency,” said one Ivhu Kuvanhu.
Another war veteran, Nyika Tatora, argued the timing by Muchinguri-Kashiri was excellent.
“Everyone is paying attention to the pandemic yet ignoring the long-suffering poor citizens of Zimbabwe. Only colonialists and neo-colonialists apologists will lament and feel otherwise,” he said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday distanced his government from the utterances saying COVID-19 was causing global suffering. He declared the COVID-19 a national disaster.
– CAJ News