Next week Parliament is set to be dissolved ahead of the 2021 general elections and ECZ will soon open the door for political parties to campaign. With this in mind, we have noted the silence from political leaders on the danger that these campaigns will pose to the nation. Political leaders be it in government or opposition seem eager for campaigns to commence but neither President Lungu nor his UPND counterpart and main rival, Hakainde Hichilema, are taking any sort of visible actions to prevent this campaign period from becoming a COVID-19 super-spreader, which it will eventually become if no one stops it.
People might ask what we expect from the Head of State and opposition political party leaders, given the Ministry of Health’s guidelines to the nation on how to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. The answer is simple, we expected the President to be the first one to take the COVID-19 vaccine and in full view of the nation so that those who have reservations are shown that this medication is safe, and that it is necessary.
We realise that a lot of people are not willing to take the vaccine because of the many theories making rounds on the internet regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. These theories are set to be believed by many people unless the powers that be take a positive step, launch a powerful campaign for the vaccine, otherwise the majority of citizens will not get vaccinated and the nation will be in danger of experiencing what the Indians are going through in their country.
We strongly believe that there is need for a significant number of people to be vaccinated before the campaigns start, then you can gather, then you can congregate. If people don’t get the vaccine then we say there should be no rallies. Otherwise you’ll end up killing people and the most affected will be the poorest. Even in India, those are the people that are dying.
Our people need to be educated so that everyone gets vaccinated because when you get the first dose, you have some level of immunity. Political leaders have to encourage their supporters to get vaccinated. All political leaders need to be responsible and save people’s lives. If they truly love this country they should encourage their members to go and get vaccinated. But if they can’t get vaccinated then there should be no public rallies otherwise we run the risk of dooming the nation.
What is happening in India is a sign, a warning to the rest of us because that double mutant virus from India will not save anyone. If you look at the living conditions in India, they are not different from Zambia. They have shanty compounds just like us. Here in Zambia we have situations where as many as ten people share a room. How can such people isolate? If one gets the virus then everyone gets it.
Now is the time for President Lungu, Hakainde Hichilema, Fred M’membe, Andyford Banda, Harry Kalaba and the rest of the political leaders to set an example. They have to show people that they are getting the vaccine and they have to encourage their followers to follow suit. This is necessary because in a situation where there is a lot of myth surrounding the safety of a drug as it is with this COVID-19 vaccine, people will only be willing to take it when they see someone who they relate with take it. If Mr Hichilema took the vaccine today in front of his supporters, that would send a positive message and soon we would see UPND cadres going in numbers to get the vaccine. But if people do not see President Lungu taking the vaccine then they begin to wonder why the Head of State is not taking the drug? Then they get to believe the theories on the internet suggesting that the drug is not safe.
It is very sad that none of our political leaders have gone to campaign for the vaccine which could be the difference between the country experiencing a new wave of a potentially more dangerous variant of the virus and maintaining low infection rates currently being experienced.
We say leaders need not be reactive, they need to have foresight. What we are seeing with the current situation is that they are relaxed because the infection rates have gone down. The only thing on their minds is the battle for State House, forgetting that securing the health and lives of citizens should be their number one priority.
When Parliament dissolves we will have a problem because there will be no ministers in office, and we wonder if their functionaries are equipped to deal with these issues. This is why there is need and urgency to prevent a possible crisis. We believe that prevention is better.