By Nevers Mumba
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I made a statement on behalf of the New Hope Movement for Multiparty Democracy in which I stated the following:
Firstly, we pledged that the New Hope MMD shall stand shoulder to shoulder with government in the COVID-19 fight to keep the Zambian people safe. We encouraged the government to stop at nothing in ensuring that we do not allow the virus to spread as we do not have neither the capacity nor the resources to deal with a fully blown pandemic. Secondly, we stated our position that the Country needed to go on a complete lockdown for a few weeks to ensure that we keep Zambians out of any possible danger.
I wish to restate that our position remains the same today as it was then on both fronts.
On the first commitment we made, we have initiated a community based program in Kalikiliki Compound under the banner of the Zambia shall be saved foundation in partnership with the MMD to supply masks, water tanks, sanitizers and antibacterial soap. We have so far serviced one hundred households with a view of servicing two thousand households by July. We shall continue to work in this community until the country is out of danger.
On the second commitment, we have insisted that only a complete lockdown will save lives in our country. To the contrary, government has opted for half measures that in our view continue to compromise the security of the citizens of this country. A quick check, around Lusaka, one realizes that the measures being recommended by government are of no effect as many Zambians have continued with life as usual, and this was our fear thus having recommended for a total shutdown. Most of our poor brothers and sisters have no money to buy face masks and their circumstances do not allow for social distancing. We are sitting on a time bomb.
In the last Presidential address Churches were given the freedom to start meeting of course following the ministry of health guidelines. Yesterday, the president unlocked Gyms, Casinos, Restaurants and school examination classes. In the same address the President hinted that the worst of COVID-19 could still be ahead of us. He further stated that he anticipates the worst economic outlook for Zambia in the months that lie ahead. The question all Zambians are asking is, Why against such a gloomy back ground are we then opening up the country instead of tightening the reins?
While we respect the position of Government on how they wish to fight this disease, we would like to state that, this approach is detrimental to the security of all Zambians. We salute the Church which in a chorus thanked the president for allowing them to meet and yet they resolved to keep the doors of their churches closed in order to protect their flocks. We would like to strongly advise the Restaurant owners and other business houses to consider to wait for the flattening of the curve before they open up their spaces for business. We know these are not easy decisions but these are no easy times either. We must bite the bullet and wait for the waters to rescind before we jump out of the ark. Life is more precious than profit.
Today’s update on Covid 19 is one of the most horrific so far for our country. Just yesterday the Repuplican president gave the nation such assurances about the situation and went on to relax the measures that government has put in place so far to help us fight this vicious enemy.
We are concerned that firstly Nakonde which has recorded 76 cases is a very significant town to the social-economic life of our country. Many small scale and medium scale traders arrive and leave from Nakonde daily in search of a better life. These business people go to all parts of our country with their wares. This could easily mean that the virus has been transported all over our nation as it would have attached itself to all kind of material.
So we could be facing our darkest days in the months ahead.
We, in the MMD have been very consistent in advising government to lockdown the nation especially the epicenters. We have further pledged that we shall support the government in the efforts to fight this virus. It is clear that on the issue of a lockdown, we see things different. It is unfortunate that as an opposition leader I have no easy access to the President or his ministers. There is also no round table around which we can float our views for government’s consideration. Our only option is to write open letters to the President in the hope that he can somehow catch wind of it.
The president himself indicated that our worst days with CoronaVirus are ahead. In view of the forecast and todays picture, we insist that it is not too late to undertake drastic measures and reverse the relaxation of the measures. We suggest the following
1. Put the epicenters on complete lockdown until it is safe.
2. Increase daily screening and testing. Let us use the GeneXpert testing that the minister of health referred to as this is available country wide.
3. Provide all our health workers from the cleaners all the way to the hospital managers with enough and complete PPEs.
As the old adage goes, a stitch in time saves 9. We have delayed to put in a stitch but still 3 stitches will save 6. We are racing against time.
It is critical that the president retakes the ship and give the nation direction.
I remain deeply disheartened at the course the fight against COVID-19 has taken. Mr President, again, please lockdown the epicenters as a matter of urgency. We further demand that both the Nakonde and Chirundu borders be closed closed.
I thank you and may God bless and protect our Nation.