Dar es Salaam. When news came out in June last year that Burundi’s Ex-President Peirre Nkurunziza had succumbed to Covid-19, it was seen as mere hearsay.
But six months later, Burundi’s former president Pierre Buyoya died in Paris due to what was officially reported to be Covid-19.
While all that remains part of history, the fact now is that Africa has suffered, with four member states of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) losing a total of 10 cabinet ministers to the novel virus in just two weeks. Zimbabwe has lost four while Malawi has lost two. Eswatini has lost two cabinet ministers and a Prime Minister due to the Covid-19 pandemic during the past two weeks. South Africa has lost one.
Transport minister Joel Matiza became the fourth serving minister in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet to succumb to the virus. Mr Matiza’s death came just days after the country lost its Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo. On Friday last week, Zimbabwe also lost its minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs, Ellen Gwaradzimba.
Ms Gwaradzimba’s death came after that of then minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Perrance Shiri who succumbed to the virus in August last year. Two days ago, a senior official in Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, succumbed to what was reported to be Covid-19-related complications, the country’s acting prime minister announced Sunday.
“His Majesty’s government notifies the nation of the sad passing of Member of Parliament Makhosi Vilakati, the Minister of Labour and Social Security,” Themba Masuku said at a press conference.
According to Mr Masuku, Mr Vilakati passed away on Saturday evening at a South African health facility, where he had been admitted for a specialised treatment procedure arising from a Covid-19 infection.
Vilakati became the second cabinet minister to die from Covid-19 after Minister of Public Service Christian Ntshangase, who died last week. Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini died of COVID-19 in December last year while undergoing treatment in South Africa.
On January 12, Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera declared a state of disaster in an address to the nation delivered hours after two cabinet ministers died from Covid-19 amid a spike in coronavirus infections.
Transport minister Sidik Mia and Local Government minister Lingson Berekanyama both succumbed to the disease in the early hours of Tuesday, the government spokesman said.
Chakwera in his speech called the deaths an “incalculable loss”, according to local media outlet Nyasa Times.
The former governor of Malawi’s central bank, Mr Francis Perekamoyo, and the principal secretary in the ministry of Information, Mr Ernest Kantchentche, also died of the disease, the government announced.
On Thursday of last week, news coming out of South Africa had it that South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa had confirmed the passing on of minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu at 62 — from complications related to Covid-19 which he contracted on January 11.
“It is with deep sorrow and shock that we announce that minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu passed away earlier today from Covid-related complications. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time of loss.” Twitted President Ramaphosa on his official twitter handle at @CyrilRamaphosa Mthembu was one of the government’s key leaders in its response to the pandemic and the public face during many press briefings. The Sadc comprises 16-member States of Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.