Cholera forces Zimbabwe opposition to call off ‘inauguration’

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Opposition Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) party leader Nelson Chamisa gestures while addressing the media in a news conference in Harare in this Aug. 25, 2018 file photo. — Reuters

HARARE — Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC party on Friday called off plans to hold a mock inauguration to name its leader Nelson Chamisa as the country’s president after public gatherings were banned due to a cholera outbreak.

The MDC had planned the event to highlight its claims that the July 30 election was rigged and that Chamisa was the rightful president, rather than President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling ZANU-PF.

The MDC accused the government of using the cholera outbreak, which has claimed 25 lives, to stop the mock inauguration at the party’s 19th anniversary celebrations in Harare on Saturday.

Authorities have banned public gatherings in the city as a health measure.

“The Movement for Democratic Change has postponed its 19th anniversary celebrations,” party spokesman Jacob Mafume said in a statement.

“It is clear that the government is abusing the cholera epidemic for political purposes and puts into serious doubt that the ban of our commemoration event was out of genuine concern.”

The cholera outbreak, first detected in the township of Glen View outside Harare earlier this month, prompted the health ministry to declare an emergency in the city after at least 3,000 cases were reported.

The disease has since spread to other towns as well as rural areas across the country as the cash-strapped government.

Zimbabwe’s newly-appointed Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube launched a crowd-funding effort to raise money to fight the outbreak, publicizing bank details on Twitter and appealing for donations.

But civil society groups blamed the death toll on “official and criminal negligence.”

“It is alarming for such a medieval and preventable disease to continue to claim valuable lives,” said an alliance of local civil society organizations.

The Zimbabwe Red Cross has deployed 1,000 volunteers to affected suburbs in the capital as it characterized the situation as “incredibly complex.”

“Most of the areas affected have been dealing with an outbreak of typhoid so this is a double punch for them and it shows the weakness of the water systems,” Red Cross secretary general Maxwell Phiri said.

Cholera outbreaks have occurred regularly in Zimbabwe’s cities as authorities struggle to provide potable water and sanitation facilities.

Zimbabwe, which was ruled by Robert Mugabe from independence in 1980 until his ousting last year, suffered its worst cholera outbreak in 2008.

A total of 4,000 people died and at least 100,000 people fell ill.

Mnangagwa has pledged to tackle the current outbreak.

A World Health Organization situation report revealed that first-line antibiotics were struggling to treat the disease, which has spread to five of the country’s 10 provinces.

Zimbabwe’s largest university postponed its graduation ceremony on Friday. — AFP


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