Zimbabwe, like many other countries in the world, is implementing measures to contain coronavirus which causes Covid-19 that has claimed lives of thousands of people worldwide and left many others hospitalised. This has resulted in the Government issuing a 21-day directive for people to stay at home. First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa (AM) has also put on hold her countrywide empowerment initiatives which she undertakes through her Angel of Hope Foundation, until the situation improves. Our Senior Reporter, Tendai Rupapa (TR) sat down with the First Lady to get her insights on the disease. The First Lady is the country’s health ambassador.
TR: Government issued a 21-day lockdown, how has your philanthropic work been affected by coronavirus?
AM: I have been so devastated in that it has brought everything to a halt. It came when we were not prepared because the only issue which is there now according to the Government and health experts is that we have to stay at home. There is not much that anyone can do at the moment besides stopping everything and follow the instructions. I encourage the media and the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services to make sure that correct and relevant information on the coronavirus is disseminated down to the grassroots, so that people can fight this virus.
TR: Do you have any plans to assist those affected by coronavirus?
AM: I am working very hard and reaching out to our partners so that we also assist in the fight against Covid-19. I have some responses already from international and also from local partners and very soon you will see the foundation handing over some of the equipment and resources we have been mobilising. When such a thing happens, we come together. Whatever you have is not small, it is not comparable, it’s all important, no donation is small.
TR: You have a school feeding programme, are you following up on the beneficiaries of the programme?
AM: At the moment I am not going to do that as much as you know that schools are closed. What I can do behind the scenes is to continue mobilising all the resources that I have been getting from Angel of Hope Foundation partners, be it local and international. Then when the disease (Covid-19) subsides, because the disease is setting its pace, we will continue with the programmes. We do not know how and when the disease is going to end, so I will continue pleading for resources and when schools reopen, I will assist beneficiaries as before.
TR: Has your sanitary wear distribution programme to young women and girls in remote areas not been affected?
AM: To some extent, now because of the staying at home and we are now relying on health experts. Nurses and doctors are the ones who are in touch with the people who visit their places of work. I encourage them to get in touch with Angel of Hope Foundation whenever they identify those in need. The medical experts should say we have come across such a problem and then I can chip in as the mother of the nation.
TR: You had plans to donate goods to Cyclone Idai survivors as the nation marked its first anniversary of the disaster, but because of Covid-19, you could not do it. What are the plans now?
AM: In this case I would want to encourage my partners and Zimbabweans at large and those who are capable to help. I would want to encourage them to continue getting whatever they can. Whatever they have in the houses to keep them and when the virus is over we will take those resources to the needy. When Zimbabwe was ravaged by Cyclone Idai, most people lost lifetime savings and investments like livestock and homes which they had worked hard to achieve. They still need our help and whatever one provides will go a long way in assisting them.
TR: As the mother of the nation, you have to deal with a lot of pressure over this disease. How are you managing?
AM: The problem is affecting us all as Zimbabweans, let’s join hands and work together. It’s a problem that has come to families, to our next door neighbours, to our relatives, so it’s a blanket problem that has come. We plead with everyone to come on board and make sure that we work together. Nothing beats people who work together as a unity.
TR: Now that you have temporarily stopped working with the vulnerable communities as a result of Covid-19, will it be easy to start from where you left?
AM: It’s not a problem at all because the programmes have to go ahead. The issue is only that we are staying at home because that is the only way to win the fight against coronavirus. Government is advising us to keep the social distance and wash our hands all the time. Personal hygiene is important where we stay. Most of my programmes, I have been categorising them and we know where to start. There are going to be more. We are going to expand more than expected because what I am thinking right now is big because I am also staying at home. I have a lot that you will see when the disease is gone.
TR: In relation to Covid-19, what would you say is the role of women?
AM: Let’s pray always because all the children in the whole world are our children and we should pray for them. I implore women to have a look at the biblical story of Mary the mother of Jesus who went with other women to the tomb only to find it open. She cried a lot. We should do the same and wail for the good health of the nation. We must pray always. We should express ourselves through prayer. This country is a prayerful country. We are going to pray more and more, praying for everyone.
The world is faced with a very difficult situation right now that requires all of us to pray and have faith in the Lord, tomorrow our prayers will be answered and I’m sure this coronavirus nightmare will end. Let’s be united despite our political affiliations, religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds. The First Lady sang a song of adoration for the nation called “Mweya Wangu Uno Muponisi” which speaks to the need to pray.
Unoziva kusasimba kwangu
Asi uri simba rangu,