FORMER finance minister Ng’andu Magande says government has no clear plan to fight COVID-19, a situation that has made Zambians lose confidence in the country’s ability to effectively contain it.

And Magande has observed that because people have lost trust in government, they think COVID-19 is a hoax.

In an interview, Magande observed that government still had no clear plan on how to stop the rapidly-spreading novel Coronavirus, as the second wave had pushed the country’s case load to unprecedented levels.

“We can have a lockdown, but a selective lockdown, which requires a lot of management. Because if you lockdown Lusaka, what happens to a fisherman from Mongu with his fish? He comes all the way and we meet at Mwembeshi and he goes back, what would be the arrangement? So, really, these are some of things that we should share. If they come into the public domain, people are able to discuss them openly, we can come up with ideas of how to solve some of this nation’s problems. But when we don’t know and the leadership is quiet, then it becomes very difficult because you don’t know whether what you want to say has already been said and someone will just say, ‘we are already doing this.’ Last year, I said as we were discussing the IMF programme, I said the IMF programme can come, but this will be a temporary measure. What plan has government got assuming that COVID doesn’t go? And it was in a meeting where all these senior people were there and the answer was: ‘we already have a plan, which we were helped to write by our cooperating partners’,” Magande said.

“In terms of COVID, already, we put up laws when it came last year, what is required now is to implement these laws. Do we need a lock-down? You don’t need a lock-down for a part of Zambia where the disease is not there. What you need, now, are preventive methods to make sure that this disease does not get to that region. Already, we know Lusaka is the epicentre, we can deal with Lusaka, we can have a lock-down in Lusaka, but how will the other people, who are dependent on Lusaka, even just to move from Chipata someone wants to move from Mongu, they will have to pass through Lusaka. So, what are we going to do about those people? So, that is an emergency programme that government has to work, because this strain that has come is a different strain and it is bringing tragedies for us.”

And Magande bemoaned that citizens had lost confidence in government’s administration of COVID-19.

“…If, every time we are hearing that, ‘COVID money has gone missing,’ somebody in Kabwata was given US$17 million, bringing us wrong ARVs, to bring us wrong medicines, I mean how do you get confidence from the people that we are in control? The people need confidence, that is why you hear a lot of people now saying that, ‘this is a hoax, they are cheating us,’ that is lack of confidence in what the messenger, the one who had delivered the message is being doubted. Government must try to be accepted with people,” said Magande.

“The President said now the Inspector General of Police (Kakoma Kanganja) should bring back the reputation and trust, he knows there is no trust by the people. Again, he has put someone there who has been there before, there are so many people who have been retired in the police force, in security institutions. So, we need people to get confidence that COVID is there, surely COVID is there. They should convince the people that there is a problem and they are going to be part of solving that problem.”