On Saturday the Minister of Health confirmed that there were two new confirmed COVID 19 cases in Zimbabwe. Other sources were saying there were actually two new cases bringing the total confirmed cases to 3. Word started spreading on social media that one of the two new cases was Zororo Makamba a media personality and son to businessman and co-owner of Telecel Zimbabwe, James Makamba.
The minister of health then came on record and claimed that he had never even heard of the name Zororo Makamba before. This was after being quized about citizen questions on why Zororo was being treated at a hospital that has not been designated to handle COVID 19 cases. The minister’s exact words:
All Our Covid 19 virus suspects and patients are only admitted at Wilkins hospital, this is the only place of screening and treatment and if you say this is what has happened, I’m quite surprised, it would be a lie if you publish that there is a patient with coronavirus at Trauma
I’m not aware of that, neither have I ever come across that name Zororo Makamba, all our corona virus patients are admitted at Wilkins, its a lie that anyone who has been recorded and confirmed to have corona is admitted anywhere, we only have 1 suspect from Victoria falls and one from Harare who was in New York and that’s the official position.
Sadly, Zororo is no more
Just after mid day today word again broke on social media that Zororo had passed away. This was followed by confusion on Twitter, people not knowing how to react or whether to believe the news. About 2 hours later the minister of health issued a statement confirming Zororo had indeed died of COVID 19 and that he was the second case referred to.
Lies in the era of social media
Zimbabwe’s political leadership has a disposition towards telling lies. A few weeks ago I wrote how opacity as a culture is dangerous in crisis situations. The response to COVID 19 was very delayed at the onset of the outbreak in Wuhan China because authorities decided to persecute doctors for discussing a new virus they had encountered. They discussed it on messaging platform WeChat!
I warned the Zimbabwean government that lying in an era of so much access to information is not only futile but very dangerous. If we as a population learn to ignore the minister of health and to trust instead our Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp feeds, we become vulnerable to false information.
How can the same health minister who did not even know Zororo’s name then pronounce his death a few hours later. I understand that he could have wanted to protect the privacy of Zororo and his family. He could have easily achieved that by saying ‘no comment’ or ‘our position is not to comment on patients so as to protect their privacy.’
He didn’t say that. Instead he said, “I am a liar, don’t trust a word I say.” Such a declaration leaves all of us to fend for ourselves in the jungle of fake news in our WhatsApp groups. Even when folks peddle obvious falsehoods in those groups we can’t tell them to stop by quoting what the officials are saying, we will be laughed off the groups.
I will end the rant by saying, Minister Obadiah Moyo, please read this article: Coronavirus, The Zimbabwe Government And Social Media