The Johane Marange Apostolic sect is holding their annual pilgrimage in Mafararikwa in Marange, Manicaland Province. The Passover began last week and runs until July 18, 2021.
The event, which has drawn thousands of church members, comes at a time when the country is under Level 4 lockdown measures which were instituted amid a surge in Covid-19 new cases and deaths.
The measures announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa include the banning of intercity travel and a ban on gatherings except funerals which have been limited to 30.
Companies were told to decongest their workplaces and remain with 40% of their employees.
The lockdown measures were extended by a further two weeks on Tuesday to give the government time to ramp up the vaccination campaign which targets to inoculate 1 million in 14 days.
All these efforts will come to naught if the government does not rein in Mapostori, one of the constituencies that have rooted for the governing Zanu PF through thick and thin.
As we reported elsewhere in this paper, the community in Chiadzwa is on the edge fearing that the gathering will be a super spreader of Covid-19 since the annual Passover brings together congregants from different parts of the country and from outside Zimbabwe’s borders.
They are shocked the police have not dispersed the congregants. The gathering comes at a time 80% of the new cases in Zimbabwe are of the deadly Delta variant.
The variant has been ruthless especially to those that have not been vaccinated. It is a given that the bulk of the Mapostori sect detest everything to do with vaccination due to their religious beliefs.
They are entitled to their beliefs. But the problem comes when their beliefs, such as gathering in the era of Covid-19, threaten the Chiadzwa community and the nation at large since they don’t live on an island but socialise with the non-Mapostori in their daily lives.
Earlier before schools closed, members of the church withdrew their children from classes to stop them from being vaccinated against measles, polio and other diseases that affect under 15 years old children. They were released when the programme had been completed.
The battle against Covid-19 needs all hands on deck. Those that enforce the laws should do their part.
History will charge the government harshly if the annual Passover turns out to a super spreader.
Zimbabwe has been on that road before where it threw away the reins and paid dearly when the grim reaper knocked on people’s doors.
In November-December last year, it appeared as if Covid-19 was defeated as gatherings were held. By January Covid-19 was back with vengeance when the second wave hit our shores.
A church member told our reporter: “When we do our gatherings we’re protected by God so there won’t be any harm on us, fear not we are covered.” We do not question their beliefs. The anger from citizens is that the gathering violates the law. Sooner, rather than later, the nation will pay the price for this political expediency.
Lest we forget, Burundi strongman Pierre Nkurunziza succumbed to Covid-19 weeks after he had downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic — espousing divine protection with his spokesperson infamously declaring: “Burundi is an exception because it is a country that has put God first”. Days later a World Health Organisation team was expelled from Burundi.