One such person is Zimbabwe’s defense minister Oppah Muchinguri. The former Minister of Water, Environment, and Climate who is a Master of Science degree holder in International Relations from the University of Zimbabwe has sensationally claimed coronavirus is God’s way of punishing the United States and other western countries for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe.
“This coronavirus that has come are sanctions against the countries that have imposed sanctions on us. God is punishing them now and they are staying indoors now while their economy is screaming like what they did to ours by imposing sanctions on us,” Muchinguri said while addressing a group of ruling party supporters at the weekend at a rally in Chinhoyi, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northwest of the capital, Harare, according to local reports.
Muchinguri appeared to mock Western nations who have borne the brunt of coronavirus with Europe now becoming the epicenter of COVID-19 after reporting more cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China. 1,809 people have already died in Italy alone since the start of the outbreak.
Her sentiments are not surprising, however. Relations between Zimbabwe and Western countries have been icy for the past two decades after sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe over alleged human rights abuses.
The United States has refused to lift the sanctions which continues to hurt ordinary Zimbabweans.
“(Donald) Trump should know that he is not God. They must face the consequences of coronavirus so that they also feel the pain,” she said in the local Shona language.
Zimbabwe has not yet recorded a case of COVID-19 but neighboring South Africa has more than 60 cases. Across Africa, 30 of the continent's 54 countries have confirmed cases.
On Monday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa issued a statement saying his government empathized with the rest of the world as it battles the deadly coronavirus.
He did not mention Muchinguri by name, but the statement published in the state-run Herald newspaper appears to modify her criticism of the U.S.
“Pandemics of this kind have a scientific explanation and know no boundary, and like any other natural phenomenon cannot be blamed on anyone,” Mnangagwa said.
On Sunday, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta directed closure of learning institutions and encouraged employers to have a work-from home arrangement as a prevention strategy. A number of companies, including the Pulse media group, have since implemented the home office strategy until the coronavirus is contained.