Zimbabwe’s defence minister, Oppah Muchinguri, has called the coronavirus pandemic a punishment of the US and Europe for imposing sanctions against members of the ruling regime over alleged human rights abuses.
Coronavirus has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed almost 6,000 since it was first detected in China last December.
Muchinguri, while speaking at a rally in the northern town of Chinhoyi on Saturday, said: “Coronavirus is the work of God punishing countries who imposed sanctions on us.
She added: “They are now staying indoors. Their economies are screaming just like they did to our economy.”
The United States and the European Union first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe during the despotic rule of the country’s late former president Robert Mugabe which was ousted by the military in November 2017.
It was gathered that the measures were aimed at high-ranking officials and government institutions, including travel bans on Mugabe and his inner circle.
The Incumbent President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, since he took office in 2017, has been battling to re-engage with the West since.
The United States, in the meantime, extended sanctions this month to two security officials accused of orchestrating a violent crackdown on protests over a delay in election results in 2018, killing six persons.
Muchinguri said the novel virus would teach US President Donald Trump that “he is not God”.
The defence minister stressed: “They must feel the effects of coronavirus and understand our pain.”
Trump declared a national state of emergency on Saturday with at least 2,700 people testing positive in the US and more than 50 have died.
Sub-Saharan Africa has so far escaped the worst of the pandemic, with fewer than 100 cases confirmed in more than 20 countries.
Zimbabwe has not recorded any cases while neighbouring South Africa announced 13 new cases on Sunday, bringing the country’s tally to 51.
The statement by Muchingurin has left many Zimbabweans appalled as they took to Twitter to express their disappointment.
A law professor, Alex Magaisa, tweeted: “To say I’m gobsmacked is an understatement.
“How does a senior minister utter such rubbish?”
Others, however, criticised the government for not taking the pandemic seriously enough.
Also tweeting, a journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, stated: “Namibian President… has cancelled Independence Celebrations.
“Yet in Zimbabwe, the regime is pushing ahead with Independence celebrations… whilst hospitals are dilapidated!”
To date, only government officials and staff have been banned from foreign travel in Zimbabwe.