Zimbabwe’s defense minister claimed God was “punishing” America and other Western states with the Chinese coronavirus for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe, the Associated Press reported on Monday.
Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri allegedly made the observation – which seemingly mocked Western nations currently victims of the Chinese coronavirus, originating in Wuhan – at a rally for ruling party leaders on Saturday in Chinhoyi, 75 miles northwest of Harare. She announced:
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. [U.S. President Donald] Trump should know that he is not a God.
Zimbabwe has not registered a single Chinese coronavirus case. However, according to the Senior Hospitals Doctors Association, the country is ill-prepared to detect or treat the virus. A recent study by doctors at France’s Sorbonne University agrees, arguing that “some countries remain ill-equipped” in Africa to handle the threat.
One of the study’s authors, Dr. Vittoria Colizza, added that, in African countries, more efforts are needed in regard to “surveillance and rapid identification of suspected cases, patient isolation and contact tracing.”
The United States and other Western countries have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe for years over human rights abuses under longtime dictator Robert Mugabe, deposed by his former vice president in 2017. Last week, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe officials for ordering an attack on peaceful protesters and mistreating members of an opposition party.
According to a statement by the U.S. Treasury Department, Zimbabwe State Security Minister Owen Ncube ordered security services to abduct and mistreat members of the opposition group. The statement also said Anselem Sanyatwe, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Tanzania, directed security forces to attack protesters during demonstrations after the country’s 2018 elections; Sanyatwe was a national army commander at the time. Violence broke out after the 2018 election results were delayed, resulting in the death of six protesters.
Justifying the sanctions – which essentially freeze any U.S.-held assets of the two officials and prohibit Americans from engaging in business with them – Deputy Treasury Secretary Justin Muzinich said, “Political and military leaders in Zimbabwe have repeatedly used violence to silence dissent and peaceful protests.”
Despite these sanctions, the United States, along with Britain and other European countries, remain among Zimbabwe’s most generous donors, providing regular relief in the form of food, aid, and medicine to the struggling nation.
On social media, many reportedly criticized Muchinguri’s comments for ignoring Zimbabwe’s troublingly close relationship with China, one of its biggest political allies.
On Monday, opposition party leader Nelson Chamisa criticized Zimbabwean leaders for blaming the Chinese coronavirus for political failings, alluding to Muchinguri-Kashiri’s comments.
“We should not be partisan about it, because diseases are non-partisan … We cannot afford to talk politics,” Chamisa reportedly said. “Health is beyond politics, but it is about life, we can’t go into politics, we cannot wish others bad thinking that we will not get this kind of problem … This is Zimbabwe and this the time for us to unite as a people and do what we know best to defend our being as a people.”