President Emmerson Mnangagwa has now gone into damage-control mode after to mitigate the embarrassing remarks by Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri who at the weekend said the “coronavirus is the work of god punishing countries who imposed sanctions on us.”
In a formal statement Mnangagwa has moved to distance his government from what is now being spun by the State Media as the “off-the-cuff and personal remarks” by Muchinguri.
“This is the worst global pandemic in our lifetimes, perhaps the greatest threat to humanity since the great wars of the last century,” the Zanu PF leader said.
“We have all seen the news. We have all witnessed the tragic scenes in China, Iran, Italy and other countries around the world. We expect science to come up with solutions to this problem soon.
“Pandemics of this kind have a scientific explanation and like any other natural phenomena cannot be blamed on anyone and know no boundary.
“We send our condolences and our solidarity to all those who are already suffering; and strength and good health to those in need,” Mnangagwa said.
The president’s message is in stark contrast to Muchinguri who had said; “This coronavirus that has come are sanctions against the countries that have imposed sanctions on us.
“God is now punishing them now and they are staying indoors now, while their economy is screaming like what they did to ours by imposing sanctions on us.
The United States and the European Union first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe during the despotic rule of the late ex-president Robert Mugabe, ousted by the military in November 2017.
The measures were aimed at high-ranking officials and government institutions, including travel bans on Mugabe and his inner circle.
Mnangagwa has been battling to re-engage with the West since he took office in 2017. But the US extended sanctions this month to two security officials accused of orchestrating a violent crackdown on protests over a delay in election results in 2018, killing six.
Muchinguri said the novel virus would teach US President Donald Trump that “he is not God”.
“They must feel the effects of coronavirus and understand our pain,” she said.