It’s almost a week since Zambia reported its first two cases of coronavirus. Since then a number of measures have been announced to manage, mitigate and contain further spread of the COVID-19. But in their usual manner, the PF leadership governance manual or handbook is replete with contradictions, denials and inconsistencies. They announced several measures and regulations to prevent the coronavirus, including restricting church and other religious meetings to one hour and bars and nightclubs to maximum two hours. But few hours later, local government minister Charles Banda said: “One of the things that came out…was that churches will be allowed assembly just for one hour and that bars would only open for two hours. But I want to make a clarification after consulting each other as sector ministries responsible to handle this matter in as far as the coronavirus awareness is concerned. The position is that there is no lockdown. We are not closing down restaurants, we are not closing down markets, and we are not closing down bus stations at all. All we are saying is that let us be mindful whenever we visit these places. What numbers should be there and that is a personal decision that one should make. When you find that places are too crowded, it is up to you to make a decision on whether to be there or not to be there.”
You cannot blame ministers for contradicting themselves after all some run bars and restaurants!
But the buck stops at the head himself, Edgar Lungu.
His silence over COVID-19 is way too loud for a leader. The nation is yet to recover from the gassing attacks and mob justice that resulted in more than 50 deaths.
Edgar for once be presidential. You were not elected to hibernate when the nation needs you most to give direction. A president is one who exudes confidence in times of emergency, crisis. Not one who holes himself up, out of picture and leaves his ministers as talking heads over a pandemic that is not only restricted to the health sector but the economy as well. And this is not the first time Edgar has decided to disappear leaving the nation to be guided by his ministers.
He did the same over the load-shedding. He only complained of seeing darkness in Lusaka and other parts of the country when addressing the National Assembly because he couldn’t avoid that constitutional mandate.
At the height of the gassing episodes Edgar disappeared and was only pictured doing some physical exercises with the military at OYDC. We now doubt Edgar would have addressed the gassing attacks had it not been a constitutional obligation for him to address the nation on the so-called national values. Of what value is a leader who can’t directly lead a nation in times of crisis?
Edgar must realise, as others have noticed, that poorly coordinated policies over the coronavirus risk locking in or even worsening already unsustainable inequalities, reversing hard-won development gains and poverty reduction.
This COVID-19 is killing people, as well as attacking the real economy at its core right from trade, supply chains, businesses to jobs.
As UN Secretary-General as observed: “We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations — one that is spreading human suffering, infecting the global economy and upending people’s lives. A global recession – perhaps of record dimensions – is a near certainty.
Entire countries and cities are in lockdown. Borders are closing. Companies are struggling to stay in business and families are simply struggling to stay afloat… Our human family is stressed and the social fabric is being torn. People are suffering, sick and scared.
Current responses at the country level will not address the global scale and complexity of the crisis.
This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies. We must recognize that the poorest and most vulnerable — especially women — will be the hardest hit… We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply. We cannot resort to the usual tools in such unusual times. The creativity of the response must match the unique nature of the crisis – and the magnitude of the response must match its scale.
Our world faces a common enemy. We are at war with a virus.”
Leaders are passionate about the people they lead, about their projects and goals. A leader should care deeply about his or her people all the time.
Let Edgar not try to be a role model in physical exercise but be the nation’s vanguard and frontline in confronting the coronavirus issue in Zambia and equally pay attention to the issue of global solidarity.