We say this because we have repeatedly warned in the past that this was going to happen. We repeatedly appealed to the President to consider closing the borders, leaving passage for only essential goods. This was never done. In fact, on the closure of borders, the government authorities behaved as though there is a particular commodity that they are involved in exporting and they don’t want to lose out on income by closing the border.
Last week, Muchinga Province Minister Malozo Sichone made a desperate cry for help regarding the situation in Nakonde, saying truck drivers coming through the border town were neither being monitored nor trailed. When Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kamyongo paid a courtesy call on him, Monday, Honourable Sichone lamented that truck drivers were free to make any stops along the way, putting citizens at risk of contracting COVID-19.
“If you have noticed here, the truckers are free, they will start off…and you know these are people who have social contacts along the road; so they stop anywhere and anyhow. Can we create a bit of capacity…I don’t know because you are key in this [issue] of escorting these trucks the way you were doing in [southern region]. So like you put them together like a given number, then we monitor them up to the end and then another batch, I don’t know. If there is no COVID, then we should not allow COVID to come,” said Sichone.
We were suprised to hear this and we thought the Provincial minister was exaggerating the situation because Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya, keeps assuring us during COVID-19 briefings everyday that his team is on very high alert across the country. He made us believe that he was in control and on top of things. Look at the news coming from Nakonde now! And when you analyse the statement coming from the Minister who says following the alarming COVID-19 figures in Nakonde, President Edgar Lungu has directed that with immediate effect, Nakonde border will be temporarily closed, you can clearly see the glaring leadership vacuum in this country.
“The situation in Nakonde remains grave and the President is concerned. In this regard, he has directed as follows; that with effect from Monday, May 11, 2020, the Nakonde boarder will be temporarily closed. There shall be no traffic in and out through the Nakonde boarder. Further, there shall be no traffic in or out of Nakonde to facilitate the implementation of targeted interventions,” said Dr Chilufya.
Why is the government acting as if this news has come as a surprise? Why are they behaving like they didn’t expect anything of this sort to happen? What has happened in Nakonde is a result of negligence. This is incompetence, and President Lungu is guilty as charged. When advisors were singing to him, asking for a lockdown of the borders, he shot them down. We have not forgotten that Cabinet meeting which they aired where the Minister of Health told them that there was need for a closure of borders. The President rubbished this proposal, saying this could create a fuel crisis, as if he was not listening to anything that people were suggesting.
In fact we remember that at the beginning of April, President Lungu was bragging that Zambia is already on lockdown and that the measures he had put in place to manage the spread of COVID-19 were perfectly fitting the international definition of disease control lockdown, as people’s movements were restricted – according to him.
“Fellow countrymen and women, as you may already be aware; a lock-down in disease control refers to a restriction of movement of people and public activity, with the aim of containing the spread of disease through person-to-person contact. Evidently, the Phase One measures undertaken by my Government are in line with the above definition and aims of a lock-down, which is; to stop the spread of COVID-19 through reduced person-to-person contact. Further, since the existing disease control measures represent Phase One of our Plan, these measures are scalable informed by science, facts and global best practices in public health.”
So if Zambia was already on lockdown, what is he locking down in Nakonde? If his measures were effective and people’s movements were restricted, why is his minister now chasing after sex workers to find out whom they have been sleeping with so that they test them? You are chasing COVID from behind and common sense says you can’t catch it now. How many sex workers get contact numbers or home addresses for their clients?
We understand that the President has so much pressure right now, and perhaps he might not be in the right frame of mind because other things are bothering him. Sadly, he needs to continue thinking and making sober decisions on behalf over 16 million citizens. Mr Lungu, sir, you cannot lock down a country with borders wide open.
Like we have written before, this government’s efforts to contain this deadly virus are not different from a child who embarks on a mission to mop a flooded bathroom while the tap is still running. They refused to close the borders, they refused to invoke provisions of the law that would legally restrict people’s movements, but now they are closing down Nakonde after the virus has already swept through the whole town. What a negligent government!