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Chinyoka on Tuesday: In which I say sorry to Prof Mthuli Ncube

By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka

Benjamin Franklin once said: “never ruin an apology with an excuse.” I like a lot of things that Benjamin Franklin once said. That is why, no matter what I might say below, this must not be read as an excuse. Like Amit Kalantri also said: “If an apology is followed by an excuse or a reason, it means they are going to commit same mistake again they just apologized for.” I was wrong. It will not happen again.

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka

Last week, in this column, I looked at the history of official promises in Zimbabwe. I pointed out that judging from failed promises in the past, I did not think that official promises of the vaccine being procured should be trusted.

We were promised the Africa Cup of Nations, and it never came. We were promised a whole host of other things, and officials never once explained when those things did not happen, or why that was so. It was as if we were meant to just take it in the chin, and move on.

But, in a communications operation that rivals anything ever seen in this great nation, the government dispatched one of Air Zimbabwe’s finest planes to China to collect the first shipment of drugs. We were told when the plane would leave Zimbabwe for China. We were told when the plane landed in China. We were told when the plane was being loaded. We were told when the plane, in midair, was somewhat delayed, and arrival times changed. We were told when the plane landed.

We were even told the storage temperature for the drugs we got, and that there exists cold chain distribution infrastructure for the vaccines to be kept safe from the elements until they are in the arms of real people. We already have drugs that require freezing (the anthrax vaccine I now have to buy as an aspiring farmer tells me that this is the case) and that these facilities are ready to be mobilised for this shot in the arm (pun intended) in our war against the pandemic.

So, I will willingly, unreservedly, say sorry to Professor Mthuli Ncube. Last week’s Chinyoka on Tuesday created the impression that the previous era of promises was in danger of being repeated. Events over the last fews days show that this is not remotely the case. In fact, after the plane touched down, the Minister himself tweeted that this was the first shipment out of 1.8 million expected doses from China in the short term.

I believe him. I have seen the proof. So, last week’s piece was an amalgam of panic and fear, stitched together with some selective reading of history and good intentions, but ultimately, wrong.

It was an unsteady ship that he inherited, Prof Mthuli Ncube. But, it is now steadying. And, with this stellar work on the vaccine, we can rest assured that we are not in bad hands. Yes, it was a donation, but not every country got similar donations, did they. You have to be doing some things right, making the right kinds of friends, to get donations of that magnitude. Credit where it is due. The Professor is doing a good job.

And I am sorry for doubting him. Someone once said that “I’m sorry” are the most inadequate words in the English language. I agree. And yet I say them anyway.

I am sorry, Prof Mthuli Ncube. Carry on, Sir.

We are not highly regarded regionally, as Zimbabwe. Our neighbours make fun of us. Our enemies imposed sanctions on us. And yet, when the updates were flying in, I noticed something that was only brought to my attention by the reaction of citizens from the SADC.

South Africa has no national airline, we do. Namibia has no national airline, we do. Strange, how it is possible to buy into the misery and dejection that others say you are engulfed in so much so that you do not see that you are in fact doing alright.

And, that says something about us as a nation, does it not? It was foreigners that noticed that the positive story in this whole properly choreographed operation was not so much the drugs (which was still a good thing), but rather that we still have a functional airline.

That while our rich neighbour down south is saddled with two million doses of a vaccine whose efficacy is not certain and whose expiry date is fast approaching while they try and figure out what to do with it, which drug they obtained using a foreign airline, we sent our own national carrier to collect enough doses to cover our first stage roll out.

If you go to our social media spaces, it is the negativity that pervades. While known supporters of the ruling party are happy with this development, the vast majority of those with voices in those spheres merely shifted goalposts and found something else to criticise.

Nywee Nywee its not enough to cover 15 million wat wat. Nywee Nywee why did they only donate 200,000 when you still have to buy 1,8 million from them? “Game over for Mthuli Ncube, will his casino kiya kiya economy survive even a 14 day lockdown?” wrote one prominent official of the opposition recently. Well, as it turned out, not only are we weathering through, but we are coming out first in the distribution of vaccines to those that need it. First among nations that do not face the same challenges that we have.

There is a government plan on who gets vaccinated when. The different stages are clearly spelt out. The need for cold chain distribution infrastructure and trained personnel to inject the vaccines means you cannot have all the 20 million jabs we need delivered at once. Even the Americans are hoping to only manage a quarter of what they need in over three months, and their infrastructure is vastly superior to ours.

We have become accustomed to doom and gloom, because that is what our toxic politics has done to our country. After this spectacular success, hope must abound. We must ignore the voices of negativity and see that while we are going through a storm, the eye is past us and there is hope outside the currents. Zimbabwe will weather this storm. Because we are in good, capable hands.

We will be just fine.

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is a qualified lawyer and social worker, living in Harare where he practices as an Advocate. He is a member of the ruling Zanu PF. Follow him on @TinoChinyoka