Tendai Rupapa in MUTARE
PEOPLE with disabilities have praised First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa for making a successful interactive Covid-19 awareness programme for them, while also voicing concern at being left out of many health and development programmes.

The game-changer, they said, was yesterday’s session where they spent time with the First Lady discussing and seeking solutions to Covid-19, which has killed thousands of people globally.

“In the Bible, there is a disabled man who spent years on the pool of Bethsaida waiting for someone to throw him inside the pool,” said wheelchair-bound Mr Bernard Madzivire, who chairs the committee of the Federation of People with Disabilities.

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa hands over a hamper to Monique Dhliwayo during her Covid-19 awareness interactive session with the disabled, the elderly and war veterans in Mutare yesterday. — Pictures: John Manzongo

“I am thankful you have come and given us a push. We were confined to our homes during this Covid-19 and hunger came. We thank you for what you have done. We urge you to come back continuously Amai.

“We pray that next time you will give us fishing rods so we can be able to fend for ourselves.”

Mr Madzivire said as disabled persons, they faced a number of challenges that required Presidential intervention and pleaded with the First Lady to present their case to him.

“The First Lady has done us wonders, especially with the hampers she has given us,” he said.

“Since the lockdown, there is nothing that we as disabled persons in Manicaland had received.”

Mr Chamunorwa Ringisai Dube, secretary for the Federation of Organisations of Persons with Disabilities in Manicaland Province, who is also the treasurer of the National Council of Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe, said they learnt a lot from the First Lady’s teachings.

“She brought awareness on Covid-19 to us,” he said.

“Most programmes leave us behind, but this is the first of its kind to be recognised that people with disabilities also need such education because issues of health affect everyone.

“Amai has gone an extra mile by giving people hampers because this Covid-19 brought a number of challenges because it is now difficult to do some jobs we used to do. It is now not feasible to go to markets, so she has weighed in with food hampers to assist us.

“The biggest thing the First Lady has done is to recognise that people with disabilities also need teachings on health in relation to this pandemic. We urge that all programmes should not leave us out.

“Zimbabwe would be a better country to live in if all programmes recognised people with disabilities.”

Another wheelchair bound youth Tendai Mazuru said he was over the moon following the visit by the First Lady and her teachings on Covid-19.

“Life is hard for people living with disabilities during this lockdown period because some of us rely on begging in the streets,” he said.

“Nowadays, there is no one going about on the streets because of this pandemic.

“The First Lady has spared a thought for us because we were used to seeing such programmes on television, but they did not reach us. I am very happy that she has arranged a programme specifically for us and when we get home, we will be preparing meals with the maize-meal she gave us, while washing our hands with the soap we received.”

The three were among hundreds of disabled persons, the elderly, other vulnerable members of society and war veterans of the Manicaland community who yesterday descended on the Mutare Agricultural Showgrounds to meet Amai Mnangagwa, who was on the second leg of her tour of urban areas as she presses ahead with her fight against Covid-19.

It was a heart-rending sight, with people using walking sticks, wheelchairs and crutches to get to the venue. Others could be seen in their prosthetic legs or being driven to the meeting place, while those hard of hearing relied on a sign language interpreter.

Last week, the First Lady was in Harare after having spent almost three months holding interactive sessions on Covid-19 with various rural communities countrywide. Zimbabwe has not been spared by the pandemic which has so far killed seven people, amid reports that the cases are rising.

The country is currently under lockdown as part of measures to control the pandemic.

The extended lockdown period had seen most vulnerable groups running out of food, hence the First Lady’s intervention.

In a devotion before the First Lady’s address, Reverend Togara Bobo of the United Methodist Church said Amai Mnangagwa meant well for the nation.

Reading from Proverbs 27:17, the clergyman said: “Giving brings forth blessings. Blessed is the one who gives more than the one who receives. Everyone has the potential to give, but that which they give differs though we find blessings through giving.

“If you give, you feel joyful in your soul. You get the feeling that you have done your part. Giving gives you an extraordinary joy, a God-given joy just by knowing you would have given someone something of value. Giving bonds the giver and the recipient.”

Rev Bobo said as a nation, people should be inclined to give.

His message was echoed by Pastor Prosper Sithole from Zviratidzo Zvevapositori.

“Look at the work that our mother is doing. She knows Manicaland is full of children who need help and she quickly stepped in. It is not just about giving money.

“You can give people knowledge even on how best people can pray. God wants loving people and this is the love that we are being shown here by our First Lady.”

Amai Mnangagwa said the major purpose of her visit was to teach and share information on Covid-19.

“I have been going around in the rural areas, but I have decided to take it to the urban areas. I started in Harare, today I am in Manicaland urban to make sure information reaches everyone. I want us to have an interactive session and it is not about me talking only and I want to know what you know because this disease has troubled us.”

The First Lady said there were other diseases with similar symptoms to Covid-19.

She warned that the cases were rising in urban areas and urged people to remain vigilant and always wear their face masks, as well as limiting unnecessary movements.

Amai Mnangagwa warned communities against receiving people and children who would had been away for a long time without checking whether or not they had satisfied quarantine measures put in place by the Government, as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the disease.

She advised on etiquette to be followed at funerals, saying health authorities should always play the leading role since they were fully trained.

People were left in stitches when an elderly man suggested that in line with the custom of distributing clothes of deceased relatives, only items worn at the time of death should be burnt to prevent the spread of Covid-19, while the rest of the wardrobe was supposed to be shared.

One elderly woman sought to know what would be done to her clothes in the event that her husband died, while they shared a wardrobe.

The First Lady suggested that the clothes should all be washed and ironed and urged people to always practice good hygiene at their places of residence.

She urged people to always wear masks to prevent passing the infection to one another.

Amai Mnangagwa urged couples to be tested for Covid-19 after a participant in her teachings suggested that people must observe the one-metre apart social distancing rule in the bedroom.

However, an elderly male participant vowed never to observe the one-metre apart rule in the bedroom, bringing the gathering into laughter.

Speaking on behalf of the Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba, Mr Peter Ngorima, a director in her office, was thankful for the First Lady’s visit and countrywide teachings.

“Our hearts are pleased by your continuous remembrance of us from time to time,” he said.

“You were recently here and today you have remembered us again. You knew and saw that through Covid-19, your people are suffering.

“Some of our companies were no longer operational while our people in the informal sector were no longer going to work and people were struggling to find something to eat. You have brought us food Amai, we are grateful and we are also thankful to your teachings, love and care.”

Through her Angel of Hope Foundation, the First Lady gave food hampers to those who attended, which included maize meal, sugar, cooking oil, sugar beans, rice, tea, powdered milk and laundry soap.

The United Methodist Church choir (Vabvuwi) provided entertainment, with the First Lady joining the gathering in song and dance.