Coronavirus: A mixed bag of shrewd leadership, showboating and political rhetoric

By Josiah Mucharowana 
Watching SA Ramaphosa’s speech on Wednesday evening updating on how the nation is faring against the coronavirus, I could see a man in control albeit tense and distraught for what’s at stake if ever he missteps a foot during his tenure.
Sullen-faced, Ramaphosa waded through the speech with ease – a show of total involvement in the whole speech-making process.
A lawyer and revered businessman in his previous life, he delivered eloquently, analysing the pros and cons of the ersthwhile lockdown.
More soldiers to be deployed, he said, other sectors to open up slowly in phases, from phase five which is the current situation in SA to phase one, a complete lifting of the lockdown.
Still, national borders and airports to remain codorned off for business for sometime.
Cigarettes are to go on sale while contentious alcohol is completely banned for now.
Moreso he alluded to working with cabinet ministers who will in turn brief the nation periodically on what the nation should and not do.
Then came the handkerchief, the elbow bent demonstrating the safe and fashionable way to cough. It was as educative as it was hilarious!
Unexpectedly, the Aha! moment came at the tail-end when he fumbled with the face mask with strips stuck on ears yet covering his eyes completely.
Holly Molly!
Behold a volcano of memes that erupted thereof…a best lighter moment in an otherwise tense situation. He later jokingly said he would start a TV channel showing people how to properly wear face masks.
That was South Africa. It has been down this road of national worry before last year when a pandemic Listeriosis engulfed the nation recording 216 deaths and 1060 confirmed cases from contaminated processed meats from a company called Enterprise foods.
The disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted in pre-cooked foods like polony and corned beef.Massive tonnes of beef products were recalled from shops.
This time and in this war against coronavirus,  SA has been praised the world over, even by the World Health Organisation ( WHO) for its swift and all-hands on deck in its approach in the war against coronavirus. Infection figures have reached 3950 with confirmed 75 deaths, and the show goes on still.
As someone with a roving eye in the region, Zimbabwe’s response came into focus naturally for me. It is my birthplace, my home. Like many of its citizens scattered across the globe running away from not to be forgotten protracted years of Robert Mugabe’s tyranny, misgovernance and economic ruin, I wish it well.
On the stage now is the ‘ New Dispensation’ with President Munangagwa in the front seat of the leadership row.
Confession time, I am an avid follower of his speechwork in public. The man struggles. He fumbles throwing jokes that are as dry as snuff. Remember the ‘masoja kombai tirove’  debacle in Kuwadzana surburb, Harare, the ‘ mapete’ episode, the ‘muriwo nema potato’ chapter, the ‘mazondo’  fiasco and many others.
Poignantly this week, he likened Presidential Advisory Council( PAC)member and owner of Sakunda holdings Kudakwashe Tagwirei to the Biblical ‘Peter’ for sprucing up Arundel Clinic in upmarket Harare to the tune of  US$ 2,8 million and eventually giving it to government for public use.
Tagwirei and the President are reported to be buddies, which in any case is normal, we don’t really choose who we befriend neither. It all boils down to a chemistry.
But for a whole President to go to town extolling a mortal man to the blessed High Heavens given their circumstances smells of ulterior motive.
The refurbished clinic reportedly was meant for the top government chefs. Their medical tourism into  the Orient has been curtailed when most countries closed off borders to non-citizens.
However, the clinic is said to be free to anybody infected with C-19 and that remains to be seen.
The President sounds detached, lacks sincerity and involvement in what he says. To me it feels he  gives speeches because it is a job he does for money, not that he enjoys and is committed to it, but because there is no choice. It appears he does it out of a responsibility to feed his family, accrue wealth and status.
Leadership has never been based on that. It’s from the heart. Leadership is an action not a position.
President Munangagwa sounds no different from the all-powerful coterie of military officers in Zim who would gladly bark orders to juniors back into battle.
His tone is profoundly exaggerated and admittedly, we all cannot be sleek and smooth as newsreaders on commercial radio.
The Presidential Communications department is missing in action.The man needs help in public speaking.
Nonetheless, for a lawyer who was educated at the University of Zambia Law School in 1975 well before the school was even registered, it’s understandable.
At a time the nation is tense in fear of coronavirus, vendors are having their markert stalls destroyed. This has happened in Mbare even on Independence Day, 18 April spreading like a ball of fire to Glen View, Glen Norah, Machipisa, Chitungwiza and outlying areas like Kwekwe. It is heartless and it is a war on the survival of thousands in a highly informal economy.
The were reports of 65 returnees from UK send of to dilapidated Belvedere Teachers College initially with no running water. It took a concerted and highly publicized gatvol by returnees for a high powered delegation by government officials to correct the anomaly. The callousness shown and shameful disregard for human rights says it all.
 A nation reveals itself by the leaders, it’s heroes, the man it honours. President Munangagwa is the face of Zimbabwe.
Coronavirus for some has become a time for astute leadership. Some have banked immense political capital by being hands on and for the people. Others see it is a fat chance for showboating, rhetoric and political posturing. For the African electorate, it is time to take a hard look at ourselves and see ways to remove the chaff from the grain.
Josiah Mucharowana is a media graduate and writes in his own capacity.
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