Why would a government be so aversive to the idea of closing its borders to human movement in the face of such a vicious global disease outbreak? What interest is this government protecting? We ask because it doesn’t make sense whatsoever that a poor country like ours can claim to have the capacity to screen hundreds of thousands who are entering the country. And it must be noted that at this point, since our neighbours have closed their borders, it means people are just crossing into Zambia and no one is allowed to leave. This defeats all logic really.
This is why we say running government is not easy. People need to be prepared when seeking political office, especially at the level of top national leadership. A crisis like this one needs a leader who is not shy to consult, a leader who has no ego problems. Unfortunately, this President is frustrating people who want to help. People who have ideas and resources to offer are being turned off.
We watched in awe a video recording of a Cabinet debate where the Minister of Health was proposing a managed national lockdown to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. Someone in the name of Finance Minister says, “I don’t have money to feed hungry people who will be under lock down”. And to this, the President agrees, saying “we are a landlocked country bla bla bla!” Surely, our leaders must be smarter than that.
It is sad that we have created a culture where every decision has to be made by the President. That is not what national governance entails. It’s practically impossible to have a Head of State who supersedes all the other citizens in terms of wisdom. Being President doesn’t mean you are the wisest. This trend where the President can overrule recommendations from technocrats is dangerous. It also defeats the essence of professional expertise.
Look at what is happening in Zambia today. People are terrorized, citizens who are following the news are living in fear. They know that any time soon, they may be infected by this vicious disease. This is why they are calling for a lockdown to contain the spread. What is so difficult in banning human movement at our border?
We repeat. Close the borders and allow only the movement of essential goods. What do you have to lose? We understand those who are opposed to the suggested declaration of State of Emergency. We understand the concern that the country’s economy, exchange rate and international image would move from bad to worse. We understand that under a State of Emergency, people who live hand-to-mouth would suffer or starve to death. That’s fine! We encourage this debate until legal, economic and political brains come to a compromise.
But a lock down, even a partial one cannot be negotiable at this stage. No country can close down completely; essential activities remain in place. This is a common sense issue. If those who are in charge of the system can see no sense in this, then it means we completely have no government in place.
Listen to what the Minister of Health is saying. We are now told that Chaisa, Jack Compound and Ibex Hill are now Coronavirus hot zones because some infected people were on the loose there. It must be known that Chaisa also means Mandevu, Kabanana and Chipata Compounds. Jack also means Chawama compound and these are the most densely populated townships in Lusaka. Does this government still think it can contain this? Please have mercy for the poor unsuspecting citizens.
And it was annoying to hear someone gag the Minister of Health as he tried to inform the country that we now have high ranking government officials including Permanent Secretaries who are in quarantine. What is so sensitive about this information? Why should it be a secret that some government officials are infected with the virus? Name them so people can know, what’s wrong with that? The British Prime Minister has told his citizns that he is infected and so have so many other world leaders and celebrities. Have they lost anything?
This is how people who are used to covering up crimes behave. Instead of showing the public that this disease is not selective, they want to sweep the government infections under the carpet, as if they were doing something immoral when they contracted the virus.
Zambians must know at this stage that there is no government to look up to. These people are so disorganized that this pandemic will very likely claim a much higher fatality record compared to our neighbours because we don’t listen.