Tendai Rupapa and Elita Chikwati in GWERU

Most people in urban areas are visiting shebeens, receiving uncleared visitors from outside the country and venturing into public areas without face masks in violation of measures put in place to prevent Covid-19 which has killed thousands of people across the globe.

This shows that knowledge gaps still exist among communities countrywide.

Speaking during First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa’s interactive meeting here with the elderly, war veterans, and the disabled, most people expressed dismay at the failure by those living in towns to observe the Covid-19 safety regulations.

The revelations come at a time when Zimbabwe has registered an increase in Covid-19 cases. Since the introduction of the lockdown in March, the First Lady, who is the country’s health ambassador, has been travelling to rural areas countrywide educating citizens mostly the elderly on Covid-19.

In her teachings on face masks yesterday, one elderly woman pointed out that she was having challenges with her children and grandchildren who did not want to wear masks.

“My children and grandchildren do not listen. They do not want to wear faces masks yet this disease is a serious one,” she said.

Sekuru Nicholas Chigwiro told the First Lady that some people in the communities were still receiving relatives who would have escaped from quarantine centres without notifying the police and health authorities.

“It’s true here some people are receiving relatives from outside the country who would have escaped from quarantine without informing the authorities because of their love for money which the visitor would have brought.

“We forget that we can always look for money, but life cannot be bought. This is what is happening here in Gweru and we shudder to think how the pandemic will be brought under control when people behave this way.”

Elderly women break into song and dance after receiving blankets and an assortment of foodstuffs from First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa in Gweru yesterday. — Picture: John Manzongo

The First Lady implored people to be vigilant in the wake of the rising numbers and said her decision to hold interactive meetings in urban areas had been prompted by the spike in cases.

“Let us not take chances. This challenge will come to pass and let’s take this time to protect ourselves. This pandemic is wreaking havoc in urban areas and that is why I am going around these areas meeting the people to raise awareness. The Chinese First Lady gave all African First Ladies assistance so that we help our countries in fighting this disease which has affected the whole world.

“What do you know about this pandemic and as you grew up, did you hear about this?” asked the First Lady.

One male participant said he heard that Covid-19 affected whites only whereupon the First Lady said the disease affected everyone and that is why Zimbabwe was recording a surge in cases as well as deaths.

“Blacks are also dying. This pandemic is not discriminatory. Be vigilant in your communities and assess whether or not your neighbours are not accepting people from outside the country without being certified fit by health authorities.”

One participant sought to know if mosquitoes did not transmit the pandemic from one person to the other considering that Covid-19 symptoms were similar to those of malaria. She was educated accordingly. The First Lady warned communities against distributing the clothes of a deceased person before they had been disinfected by health authorities.

Mbuya Anna Munakarwe told the First Lady that backyard shebeens were a cause for concern.

“We are happy with your educative visit Amai. We once had a challenge with Aids, now we have Covid-19. We are not following the rules as we are spending time in the streets. Some people are operating backyard shebeens risking the spread of the pandemic,” she said.

Another participant Mbuya Martha Mudemwa quipped: “Influenza came and passed because we followed the rules and stayed at home. We hope this Covid-19 will come to pass if we follow what we are asked to do.”

One male participant was thankful to the First Lady for “the gospel of salvation that she is moving with so that the whole nation survives. This Covid-19 is a plague from God for not following his word”.

His sentiments were echoed by another woman who said the whole problem was man-made.

“We as people have a problem. We are not looking after children as women because we leave the children roaming the streets instead of advising them to stay at home.”

The First Lady said Covid-19 was blind to age as it affected everyone as children risked contracting the disease while playing and spread it to the whole family.

On face masks, the First Lady said children below two years of age should not wear masks.

Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Larry Mavima was ecstatic at receiving the First Lady in his jurisdiction.

“Today we are receiving our mother in our province. We are happy to welcome her here. It is better to give than to receive. Wherever she goes she goes with gifts. She ensures all her children have enough to eat. As a mother, she has come to bless us, especially during this era of Covid-19. We are also thankful to her countrywide Covid-19 awareness campaigns,” he said.

A religious leader, Reverend Nyabonda likened the First Lady to a hen that protects her chicks from predators like eagles.

“Through the awareness campaigns, the First Lady is protecting citizens and that is a sign that she has love. She is encouraging us to look up to God and pray for divine protection until the pandemic is over.”

Pastor Pauline Kaiteni read from Isaiah 41 vs 10 and assured people not to be afraid as they were under divine protection.

Midlands Provincial chairperson for war veterans Mrs Virginia Mupasu said what the First Lady was doing was the first of its kind since independence in 1980.

“From 1980 to the present day, we had never encountered such a good deed. Since the advent of the new dispensation things have improved and we are truly thankful. We thank the President and the First Lady because we had never been remembered as such,” she said.

Another Gweru resident, Mr Simbarashe Marera said: “We hear that second hand clothes are not allowed because of their propensity to transit the virus. Since flea markets were closed, we still see those clothes being sold in the communities. We do not know how to stop this practice or there should be a complete shutdown to their activities.”

He welcomed the First Lady’s move to assist people with food and blankets during this winter season.

“What she has done is welcome as she is cushioning people since they have not been going to work as a result of the lockdown. Some of the people are disabled as well and unable to fend for themselves,” he said.

Through her Angel of Hope Foundation, the mother of the nation distributed blankets, water guard and an assortment of foodstuffs to everyone who attended the meeting. Among the foodstuffs were dried vegetables which she prepared especially for the vulnerable members of the society.

She has a thriving garden at the back of her office where she grows a variety of vegetables which she later dries. She also buys some of the fresh vegetables from families in farms as a way of supporting their gardening projects before drying and distributing them to vulnerable communities countrywide.