By Moses Matenga and Vanessa Guzha | NewsDay |
Industry and Commerce minister Sekai Nzenza has come under fire for allegedly flouting COVID-19 safety regulations following a meeting she held last week with an Indian delegation.
Pictures of Nzenza accompanied by her ministry officials, including her deputy Raj Modi, were circulating on social media yesterday, showing them engaged in a meeting, but without observing social distancing and wearing face masks.
The pictures irked several people on social media platforms, who called for a stiff penalty against the minister for being “reckless”.
India has become a COVID-19 hotspot, with close to 20 million cases and at least 220 000 deaths as the coronavirus cases continue to soar in the Asian country.
Nzenza was not picking calls yesterday.
She also did not respond to messages sent to her by NewsDay.
It emerged that the delegation was made up of over 15 prospective investors, who are on a seven-day tour to scout for opportunities as part of an initiative by the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce and the India Trade Organisation, led by its chairman Asif Iqbal.
Ironically, Iqbal said the visit was a follow-up to that of Indian Vice-President Muppavarapu Venkaihah Naidu in 2018 and was delayed due to COVID-19.
The Indian investors are expected to meet heads of local business organisations and business executives during their stay.
COVID-19 national response chief co-ordinator Agnes Mahomva refused to comment on the Nzenza issue, but said the law should take its course on people flouting COVID-19 regulations.
“People have always been breaking the law even before COVID-19. People steal cattle, people steal cars, people are breaking the law all over and if anyone breaks the law, the law must take its course. Various laws are broken and people just have to comply so I can’t comment on a specific issue of someone breaking it. The law should take its course,” she said.
Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana refused to comment on the matter referring all questions to the minister.
“I was not at that particular event, so I cannot comment on something that happened when I was not there. Call the particular minister and ask her why they were not putting on masks,” he said.
Government has been accused of lowering the guard in the fight against COVID-19 and allowing potential super-spreader events to take place.
Last week, Zanu PF and the Affirmative Action Group organised an event in Bulawayo, where dozens of people were in attendance and did not observe COVID-19 regulations.
Government last year conceded lowering its guard and easing lockdown regulations during the first season, while several ministers and senior government officials were also partying without observing COVID-19 protocol.
Consequently, a number of ministers succumbed to the pandemic including Sibusiso Moyo (Foreign Affairs), Joel Biggie Matiza (Transport), Ellen Gwaradzimba (Manicaland Provincial Affairs) and former Prisons boss Paradzayi Zimondi.
Community Working Group on Health executive director ltai Rusike said government should be proactive.
“There is an urgent need to protect the people of Zimbabwe from the high risk exposure to the COVID-19 variant that India has been battling with for the past nine weeks as their cases continue to escalate to figures never experienced anywhere before since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2019,” he said.