By Leopold Munhende
INFORMATION Minister Monica Mutsvangwa has defended her decision to flout the national Covid-19 lockdown restrictions after hosting her 60th birthday party last Saturday evening where scores of guests including ministers openly disregarded government coronavirus regulations.
Since March when President Emmerson Mnangagwa imposed coronavirus restrictions, thousands of ordinary citizens have been arrested across the country for not putting on masks in public and other Covid-19 related violations.
Mutsvangwa’s birthday celebrations were also held when Zimbabwe is recording a daily spike in Covid-19 infections with the country surpassing the 10 000 mark Monday.
On the day in question, Zimbabwe recorded 108 Covid-19 new cases, according to the health ministry.
However, Mutsvangwa said there was nothing amiss about her birthday celebration.
The senior government propaganda chief told journalists only a few individuals were invited and there was a booth to spray all party goers.
Images of ministers and a host of other guests partying, hugging and merrymaking with her were shared by the information ministry’s secretary Nick Mangwana on Twitter.
Among those who attended the event were justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, home affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe, transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza and Mangwana.
“That was obviously a very personal dinner, a small gathering where a few friends were just there for dinner,” said Mutsvangwa when quizzed by journalists at a post-cabinet media briefing Tuesday.
“All controls were put in place including a walk in booth for disinfecting. We are much concerned about reducing and containing the spread of this disease.”
However, images show there was no social distancing at the party while none of the guests wore the mandatory face masks in public gatherings.
In one of the images, Mutsvangwa is seen hugging Mangwana, Kazembe and Ziyambi while tens of guests occupied the hall at an undisclosed location where she celebrated the birthday.
When Covid-19 precautionary rules fly through the window…Minister Mutsvangwa (second from left), her permanent secretary Nick Mangwana (extreme left), Transport Minister Joel Biggie Matiza – bare-mouthed – enjoy a ‘Covid-19 free’ moment
The minister later tried to wriggle herself out from further questioning saying the press conference was a post-cabinet briefing only.
“This is a post-cabinet briefing and if we need to talk about something that happened out of cabinet today (Tuesday), I am free as your minister and the ministers you are referring to, we can talk about it.
“We are doing everything to ensure that this country does not get to be like others where a lot of people have died as a result of this pandemic. We really need as a nation to adhere to measures put in place by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and government, we have done very well as a government and at least have to continue doing that.”
Followoing the Covid-19 outbreak and the lockdown announcement, government has been restricting gatherings including parties, weddings and funerals to a maximum 100 people.
Police and other state security agents have been accused of closing down similar gatherings across the country and assaulting revellers.
The latest event the police stopped is Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) where they besieged the stage and told everyone to leave.