By Anna Chibamu
THE government has been left embarrassed after one of its top most government officials, Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri created a diplomatic headache for Zimbabwe by accusing China of creating the novel coronavirus that has killed millions across the globe.
In an audio attributed to the minister, she is heard piling blame on China for allegedly being the source of experimenting with Covid-19 and failing to contain it.
Zimbabwe is currently going through a deadlier second Covid-19 wave that has seen new infections and deaths surge.
In the audio interview Friday, following the death of Manicaland provincial minister Ellen Gwaradzimba the same day from coronavirus, a grieving Muchinguri is heard accusing China of experimenting with Covid-19, but failing to contain the deadly virus that has globally infected over 93.8 million people and killed more than two million.
“The disease is now on a fresh peak now. Cases are rising again. They (Chinese) are the ones who started their experiments and things got out of hand and now their experiments are costing us,” Muchinguri said in the interview.
The first human cases of Covid-19 were reported by officials in Wuhan City, China, in December 2019.
“They cannot control this now. They have cost us. Those whom we call our all-weather friends, look at what they have done to us.”
Sino-Zimbabwe relations date back to the days of the liberation struggle for an independent Zimbabwe. Since then, the two countries have been “all-weather friends”.
Of late, the Far East economic giant has been one of the few countries helping Zimbabwe – a country facing mounting economic, political challenges and viewed as a pariah state – with Covid-19 medical equipment aid running into millions of US dollars.
However, in a damage control effort, the Foreign Affairs Ministry moved in Saturday and dismissed immediately, Muchinguri’s statements as they did not reflect the government’s position.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Constance Chemwayi said Zimbabwe did not hold China responsible for the emergence and spread of Covid-19.
“Reference is made to a purported telephone conversation between the Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs, Honourable O.P.Z. Muchinguri-Kashiri and a journalist, Simba Chikanza, that is circulating on the social media platforms,” she said.
“We wish to make it clear that the sentiments expressed do not reflect the position of the Government of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe and China enjoy excellent relations. The government does not hold the Chinese Government responsible for the emergence and spread of the coronavirus that has affected every global citizen.
“Government appreciates that China has exercised global leadership in efforts to find both the cause and a solution to the pandemic.”
In March last year, Muchinguri created another diplomatic problem for Zimbabwe when she said Covid-19 was God’s way of punishing the United States and other western countries for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe.
“This coronavirus that has come are sanctions against the countries that have imposed sanctions on us. God is punishing them now and they are staying indoors now while their economy is screaming like what they did to ours by imposing sanctions on us,” Muchinguri said at a Zanu PF rally in Chinhoyi.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa was immediately forced to move in and issue a statement restating that his administration was committed to fighting coronavirus.