Much debate has been generated on social media and other platforms about the MDC T’s decision to support the national Covid 19 Phase 2 vaccination launch in Victoria Falls on 24 March 2021. Some Zimbabweans have hailed this development as proof that for once Zimbabwe’s long time political adversaries are converging for an issue of national importance. Some viewed it as confirmation that the MDC T had sold out on the democratic struggle. Others asserted al beit without any evidence that the MDC T President had been given financial incentives, while others asserted that it was just a grandiose ploy for the MDC T to join the POLAD. Much of the debate has been very passionate but unproductive and lacking rationality. The amount of hate and vitriol spewed has been both frightening and saddening.
The position of the MDC T on the pandemic was well spelt out at the commencement of the pandemic. It was that the government had to make sure that it invested in the prevention of this disease. In this regard, it had to make sure that preventive materials were made readily available. It also had to ensure that it procured enough vaccines for inoculation of the population. The party demanded that the vaccine as well as protective wear had to be made available to the poor free of charge. This message was delivered in special short videos featuring the party’s President as well as in written form on social media platforms. The MDC T was the only party which approached the government, in January 2021, that it also be assigned a role to play in fighting the pandemic. It called for the complete depoliticisation of the fight against the pandemic and advised the government through the highest offices of its availability in the fight against the disease. The party demanded free treatment for the poor people infected by the disease as well as state assisted funerals in the unfortunate case of bereavement. It also attenuated through vigorous messaging the need to abide by the WHO mandated health guidelines including washing of hands with soap, social distancing and correct wearing of masks.
When the government procured the vaccines from China the MDC T was delighted that the vaccine was being offered for free. The party did not hesitate to encourage people to take the vaccine. All its top leaders including the President led by example and publicly got vaccinated while encouraging the generality of Zimbabweans to get vaccinated. What is important is that vaccination now is free of charge. We don’t know whether this will still be so in the future. Our decision to encourage vaccination was informed by the medical advice from the WHO, Zimbabwe government health authorities, the health professionals in both the private and public sectors in the country, the medically qualified persons within the MDC and other knowledgeable people. We were encouraged that the doctors, nurses and health professionals who know better were being vaccinated. World over Presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens, the rich and famous and the poor are being vaccinated.
The MDC T called for complete depoliticisation of the fight against the Covid 19 pandemic. For that reason we refused to surrender the Covid 19 fight to the government and Zanu(PF). It is our fight too.
When President Mnangagwa invited all leaders of political parties within and outside POLAD to attend the launch of the programme we accepted the invitation. This would be a symbolic gesture by the leaders of political parties that we stood in unity in fighting this disease irrespective of our political divergences. The MDC viewed, and still views, it as irresponsible for any leader to incite people against vaccination. We have it on good authority that some of the leaders and personalities who were speaking vociferously against vaccination were in fact clandestinely and nichodemously being vaccinated. We refused to be part of this hypocrisy and went public in our support for vaccination.
The suggestion that leaders were paid to attend the function is just preposterous. It totally ignores the consistence with which the MDC has been calling for vaccination. Therefore, its leaders do not require financial motivation in order to advance what they have always stood for anyway.
The suggestion that attending this programme was a ploy to join the POLAD is just cheap propaganda. POLAD is not joined in Victoria Falls. At any rate the ceremony for the launch of Phase 2 of the national Covid 19 vaccination actually took place in the full glare of the world. No POLAD activity took place on this day.
Equally preposterous is the suggestion that attending the second phase vaccination launch amounted to selling out the democratic struggle. There is nothing democratic about inciting people to refuse vaccination while the leaders are being clandestinely vaccinated.
The MDC T views POLAD as a good starting point in national engagement and dialogue. Its only handicap is that the POLAD constitutive document stipulates that the platform is only for those people who stood as presidential candidates in 2018. This technically disqualifies the MDC T as currently constituted. However, the party has consistently called for national dialogue to resolve the country’s myriad of challenges. This dialogue must be genuine, inclusive and unconditional.
The sad negative reaction to the MDC T’s attendance of the Phase 2 national Covid 19 vaccination launch actually vindicates the MDC T. It shows that Zimbabwe’s political environment suffers from the malady of polarisation, hate, rancour, intolerance and violence. That is why the party has called for a new politics of rational disputation and tolerance. We are however, happy that Zimbabweans have largely heeded the call that they must be vaccinated. We await the roll out of this vaccination to the poorer communities in the high density suburbs, rural areas and the farming communities. Vaccination is the way to go.