From activities surrounding presentation of presidential nomination papers on Wednesday and Thursday, it has become clear that leaders of major political parties in the country have failed to lead by example in the fight against the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Ironically, Minister of Health Jappie Mhango, who announced 13 new Covid-19 cases yesterday—among them five health care workers—expressed displeasure with the manner political parties are behaving.
Mhango, in an exclusive interview, said it was disheartening to observe that politicians on both sides of the political divide have continued to conduct political rallies that are pulling crowds.
He said the ironical and unfortunate part of it was that the politicians are observing social distancing among themselves and wearing face masks, but they are allowing their supporters to stand, “literally shoulder to shoulder”.
“All political parties must play a role, but I’m saddened we’re being careless. It’s the same people we want to vote for us, but if they’re infected, who is going to vote for us?” wondered Mhango.
Paradoxically, leaders from political parties—including the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) whose administration formulated the Covid-19 regulations—and where Mhango belongs—conducted parades in the country’s major cities on Wednesday and Thursday—going around townships, addressing their supporters where no social distancing was observed.
Chancellor College-based political analyst Mustafa Hussein said in an interview it was regrettable and uninspiring that politicians have failed to lead by example in the fight against Covid-19.
He said the campaign field was supposed to be levelled, where political parties needed to be treated equally, but it was clear no political party wants to be left behind.
Hussein said Mutharika himself has failed to lead by example as he was all over town after presenting his nomination papers, meeting people that observed no social distancing.
“We’re dealing with a health crisis here and government came up with a number of guidelines. Leaders of the political parties were supposed to be exemplary. I,” he said, adding that parties were desperate.
MCP national campaign director Moses Kunkuyu said as much as they failed to control their supporters in Blantyre on Thursday and in Lilongwe on Friday, their leaders are committed to fight the pandemic.
However, Kunkuyu blamed the DPP leadership for failing to be exemplary, claiming that everyone was sticking to the Covid-19 guidelines until the DPP started holding rallies, with more than 100 people in attendance.
DPP secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey said she was at a funeral, and could not comment on the matter while the party’s spokesperson Nicholas Dausi could not be reached.
But the party’s national campaign director Ben Phiri, who could also not be reached yesterday, is on record as urging DPP followers to always take Covid-19 precautionary measures when attending party functions. He warned that if people are not cautious, the pandemic can cause havoc resulting in loss of lives.