President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday broke his own decree banning all public gatherings in excess of 100 people by addressing a rally attended by thousands of supporters in Nyanga, less than 24 hours after he made the refrain to contain the outbreak of the novel coronavirus which is causing havoc in global markets.
Mnangagwa claimed that his decree would only come into effect tomorrow, but his explanation rang hollow after neighbouring Zambia recorded its first two confirmed cases of the virus and South Africa reported a spike to 116, including 13 community infection cases.
As of yesterday, 27 countries on the continent had reported 576 cases and 15 deaths.
In Zimbabwe, officials reported one new suspected case of the virus at Beitbridge Border Post of a woman from Malawi who was in transit to her home country from South Africa, bringing the number of suspected cases to 15.
The first 14 suspected cases were negative, but international carrier, Emirates, yesterday suspended flights to Harare and Lusaka for 60 days as a precautionary measure.
On Tuesday, Mnangagwa declared a state of national disaster to tackle the possible outbreak by cancelling the 40th Independence Day celebrations, the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, sport events and public gatherings of more than 100 people, including church meetings.
He opted to keep schools open, a move criticised by teachers labour unions as unnecessarily placing the school children at risk.
Mnangagwa, who is today expected to launch a coronavirus national preparedness and response plan, said the ban on travellers from coronavirus hotspots would come into effect starting tomorrow, March 20, but the ban on gatherings of over 100 people, sporting events was for the next 60 days, signifying immediacy.
He sought to explain the contradiction at the Nyanga rally after commissioning a pump house at Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme in the same district.
The rally was held at Bumhira Secondary School.
“So now, you have the right to assemble the way you did today. Today (yesterday) is 18, tomorrow (today) 19, and Friday, 20, that is when my decree will be effective,” Mnangagwa said, making a mockery of his own ban.
While Zimbabwe has yet to record a positive test, coronavirus the fast-spreading disease, which originated in Wuhan, China, has now infected over 200 000 people and caused nearly 8 500 deaths in 164 nations, with some countries now under emergency lockdowns only seen during wartime and governments are pledging billions in cash to bail out depressed economies.