COVID-19 awareness campaigns being spearheaded by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa in urban centres countrywide are proving providential, as they give citizens a head-start in the wake of the recent spike in cases.
The First Lady is the country’s health ambassador.
Amai Mnangagwa and her team from Angel of Hope Foundation visited rural communities countrywide educating villagers on Covid-19.
During the educative meetings, she distributed personal protective equipment, sanitizers, blankets, home-made face masks and food to the elderly and other vulnerable groups that were failing to fend for themselves owing to the current lockdown.
She has recently started visiting urban communities and so far, she has been to Harare, Mutare, Gweru and Masvingo.
Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Ezra Chadzamira welcomed the First Lady in the province and paid tribute to the work she is doing.
“The First Lady is doing a lot of work in this country. She was here recently and gave all rural districts food, toiletries and personal protective equipment. She is back again today feeding us with educative information and food. Through her Angel of Hope Foundation, she is indeed touching lives and we are grateful.”
Pastor Sithandazile Mhlanga implored the nation to look up to God in the face of the coronavirus which has brought the world economy to its knees and claimed the lives of thousands.
Reading from Luke 18 vs 1, Pastor Mhlanga said all the help comes from the Lord and praised the First Lady for rallying the nation to prayer.
“During this Covid-19 era, as Zimbabweans we should unite and look up to God because our help comes from above,” she said.
Mrs Shuvai Wutawunashe also spoke about the need to “Cast all our burdens on Jesus”.
She read from Matthew 11 vs 28 and said God was waiting to grant rest to those who were over-burdened.
In her interactive session yesterday at Masvingo Showgrounds, the First Lady emphasised that the fight against coronavirus was everyone’s responsibility, saying people had to put into practice the various preventative measures they were being taught to keep their families and communities safe.
She spoke strongly against gender-based violence which has reared its ugly head across all communities and urged people to live in harmony and seek amicable ways of resolving disputes.
“As Masvingo, what have you to say about this pandemic? Makanzwa kutii nezvacho? This is not my issue alone and I urge you to come together and we teach each other about this pandemic,” she said.
Sekuru Danie Matika voiced concern over people who were not taking face masks seriously.
“This disease is affecting everyone and I do not know why some people, especially in urban areas, are taking chances by not wearing their face masks. This pandemic requires that we follow the guidelines being given by health experts,” he said.
One elderly woman had no kind words for people who were escaping from quarantine centres and said such practices must be brought to an immediate end.
“We hear people are running away from quarantine centres and I think they are running away to satisfy their sexual appetite,” she said. “Be it their husbands, women should report these characters who are putting the lives of people at risk. The whole family, community and nation at large may be affected because of this behaviour which is uncalled for.
“Even if it’s your husband, deny him conjugal rights if he escapes from a quarantine centre or after having skipped formal border entry points.”
Mbuya Esnath Denhera left the meeting in stitches when she said it was difficult to deny men conjugal rights because of cultural expectations.
“The problem here is that if my husband runs away from quarantine, I cannot deny him conjugal rights,” she said.
“He may even end up beating me up thinking I would have been unfaithful during his absence.”
In response, the First Lady said: “Ichokwadi hacho kuti (it is true that) we follow certain traditions and values, but in relation to Covid-19, we cannot risk, hence we have to put some of these cultural beliefs aside.
“If your husband runs away from quarantine, report him to the police. This does not mean the marriage would have ended. It is a preventative measure. We want to stem the spike in cases.”
Sekuru Pinniel Chigwiko paid tribute to the First Lady for her teachings, which he said had helped in a broad sense to spread information on coronavirus.
“Education on coronavirus was limited in rural areas, but your awareness campaigns are paying off. Things have improved tremendously,” he said.
And the First Lady agreed saying: “I shared information on coronavirus extensively with rural communities and they now know much more than their urban counterparts. They can now make their own face masks and use them clean.
“Some urban areas are actually behind, hence the surge in cases there. That is also the reason I have started visiting urban areas where there are still reports of people exchanging face masks while getting into a supermarket, which is not healthy.”
One elderly man expressed concern at the increase in cases of border jumping.
“Amai, there is an increase in cases of border jumping where people come from South Africa and stay in the townships without going for quarantine,” he said.
The sentiments were echoed by another woman who said: “We are largely to blame because we are not reporting our relatives who are evading quarantine after jumping the border from South Africa. How do we expect the problem to end when people view quarantine as a punishment and when we welcome people who are not tested?”
Mrs Tsitsi Choga was thankful to the First Lady for turning her focus on urban areas.
“You have done well to come here to urban areas where people still visit shebeens, sharing beer mugs,” she said.
“Where people disregard face masks and when drunk they throw caution to the wind, forgetting they will be packed in the shebeens. Keep pressing that button. You are in the right direction Amai.”
Amai Mnangagwa implored people to stop operating shebeens which put their lives and those around them at risk.
The First Lady invited the provincial medical director Dr Amadeus Shamhu to explain the safe way of disposing of a deceased person’s clothes.
“In the event of death, we encourage people to inform health experts who then supervise the funeral and burial,” said Dr Shamhu. “The deceased’s clothes will be sprayed with a chemical, washed, sun dried and ironed before they are distributed.
“We strongly discourage relatives from rushing to distribute the clothes before they are taken care of by health experts.”
Amai Mnangagwa invited Chief Fortune Charumbira to speak on ways they are using as community leaders to end child marriages that are also resulting in domestic violence.
Chief Charumbira said as traditionalists, they were against child marriages, adding that they were fining people who were involved in such practices and also handing them to the police.
On border jumping, Chief Charumbira said people were running away from South Africa to spend time with their families who sometimes did not report them to the police.
“In my area, a certain woman actually followed her husband at a quarantine centre demanding his release,” he said.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare deputy minister Lovemore Matuke thanked the First Lady for her non-partisan approach and care for vulnerable communities.
“Your name will forever be on our mouths because of your love,” he said. “As social welfare, we are grateful as you are taking care of the vulnerable societies.”
Various church choirs, including ZCC brass band, provided entertainment and the First Lady joined the gathering in praise and worship.
The cold weather could not dampen her resolve to impart life saving tips to the people of Masvingo in the wake of the effects of coronavirus.
She left Masvingo satisfied that people had learnt a lot and were going to be her ambassadors in their communities.
Amai Mnangagwa thanked Angel of Hope Foundation’s partners for their unwavering support.