By Patrick Mucheleka
The revelation by the Zambia National Health Institute (ZNHI)director, Victor Mukonka that people flouting COVID-19 regulations will be penalized either through fines or jail sentences makes sad reading.
We feel such pronouncements and threats on Zambians is unwelcome especially that when we told the Government to take remedial measures aimed at preventing the further spread of the disease in late March, our calls fell on deaf ears. Instead of threatening the general public, Dr Mukonka should target the Patriotic Front officials who think that they are above the law.
It is very unfair for Mr Mukonka to start issuing misguided and misplaced threats on the general public when the people in the forefront violating COVID-19 measures such as social distancing, facemasking, sanitizing and handwashing are well-known people like PF Deputy Secretary General Mumbi Phiri who mockingly announced to the nation that while President Hakainde Hichilema was “busy enjoying his mansion”, the PF were busy campaigning for the 2021 tripartite elections.
If the ZPHI has no idea how and where to start effecting arrests on those contravening provisions of Statutory Instrument (SI) 22, they need look no further than State House and a number of senior PF officials who are in the front seat of disregarding COVID measures.
However, we are not surprised that the PF-led Government is in panic mode to try and arrest the upsurge of the pandemic owing to international pressure on how COVID donations have been utilized.
Before the government can think of arresting members of the general public who do not wear masks without government providing free masks.
We wish to warn Mr Mukonka not to be used as a rubber stamp by the PF to effect arrests and impose fines on innocent citizens who have not been given any facemasks as they cannot afford to purchase them owing to high poverty levels in the country.
If the ZPHI has enough resources to effect arrests on poor, defenceless citizens, we feel the Institute would do well to channel those resources on the purchase of face masks, hand sanitizers and hand washing paste for the masses.
We wish to call on the Police Command to say no to orders from the PF to effect arrests on unsuspecting citizens.
The Author is UPND Deputy Secretary General of Politics