GOVERNANCE activist Brebner Changala says the fight against COVID-19 in Zambia has been mismanaged by leaders, causing citizens to question the authenticity of information coming from government regarding the pandemic.

But Changala has urged Zambians not to doubt the dangerous effects of COVID-19 on human life owing to government’s laissez-faire attitude, encouraging everyone to take the necessary preventive measures.

In an interview, Changala described President Edgar Lungu’s directive to the Ministry of Health to only hold COVID-19 updates twice a week as an insult to Zambians’ health and security and a lack of strong commitment by government to fight the pandemic.

“This coronavirus came with a bang in the beginning, but it is slowly fading away with a whisper. It is fading away in terms of commitment from the stakeholders and government itself. Governments all over the world are spearheading the fight against this pandemic. In our country, the man behind the promotion of alertness has been the Minister of Health (Dr Chitalu Chilufya), supported by the Minister of Information (Dora Siliya). This tells you that the President of the Republic of Zambia hasn’t put up so much commitment to fighting this pandemic from the onset. I am not even surprised that a matter that is supposed to be highly-publicized has now become a secondary topic after the gold that has been found elsewhere (in Mwinilunga). So, what is happening is that everybody is now relaxed and the worst thing that has happened is that people, having seen the laissez-faire (approach) in our leaders, they are now questioning whether the coronavirus is, indeed, real,” Changala said.

“So, for the Ministry of Health, through the Presidential directive to start giving updates only twice a week, it tells you that they are equally relaxed! The President addressed the country last week without even making any announcement on the many restrictions that he had given to the people of Zambia. So, people have started congregating now, last Sunday I saw many churches open and I have seen bars have opened also. Let’s not cheat ourselves; bars have opened, courtesy of this laissez-faire approach by government. And in the process, even the militant and combatant Bowman Lusambo has also disappeared in thin air! He was a touch-bearer of the Presidential directive and he harassed many and he bullied many, but all that for nothing and today he is nowhere to be seen.”

But Changala, however, encouraged Zambians to take personal care of their health in the absence of government’s commitment, emphasizing that the lives of each citizen were in their own hands.

“My take and my advice to the people of Zambia is that coronavirus is real. The only challenge we face is that it has been mismanaged by our leaders and as such, the authentic nature of their figures is also being placed in query. But we must not doubt the dangerous effects of COVID-19 on humanity and on our daily lives. As we associate, we must put on a mask, we must maintain social distance, we must not make unnecessary movements, we must stay home and take care of ourselves. Our safety is in our hands,” Changala said.

“These twice-a-week briefings are an insult to the health and security of the people of Zambia in their totality. So, I urge the President to show leadership because he’s perpetually absent in the public eye and people are asking ‘is our President in charge or he has given power to some unknown individuals?’ He has not shown dynamic leadership, he’s actually now becoming a questionable character in the midst of this serious challenge.”

He also told President Lungu to open up the country and allow citizens to go back to their normal routine if he was not serious about fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If he is not ready to show leadership, let him just open up the country so that we return to the status quo, we live our normal lives under COVID-19. After all, it does not make sense to close the bars and leave Soweto Market open and allow 18-seater minibuses to load to capacity without any social distancing, what have the bars done wrong? They are just injuring businesses and sending people in unmitigated poverty. They have not helped anybody, rentals are due, schools are opening and parents are stressed and confused. Serious leadership should have prevailed over these matters, other than just announcing deaths here and there. The President has failed the nation, President Lungu has been a liability for too long, but he must realize that we, as citizens, are tired of him being a threat to the security of this nation,” said Changala.