Responsible Leadership during a Crisis

The events of last week left me thinking about responsible leadership during a crisis, what good looks like, what it means and how leaders can demonstrate acting responsibly in times of crisis.

Whilst the world is currently gripped with COVID-19 with most progressive leaders putting in place action plans to manage the situation. It would appear that not all government leaders are well prepared.

In a very shocking development, on Saturday, 14th March, the Zimbabwe Minister of Defence and War Veteran Affairs Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri was heard celebrating coronavirus in a video circulating on social media. Muchinguri Kashiri claimed that the deadly disease was God’s divine vengeance against western countries for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe. She claimed that God sent the coronavirus to the Western nations because they had imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe. She did not end there but went on to attack US President Trump saying that he should know that he is not God. President Trump recently extended targeted sanctions against Zanu PF elites and their business in-group. This clearly rattled Muchinguri Kashiri and the comments made were a direct attack to the American President. These comments were misplaced and unacceptable, she should apologise to these western nations she targeted in her comments. Her language incites hatred and could place the US embassy officials in Zimbabwe at risk.

To date, the Zanu PF government has not communicated a clear Action Plan on how they will manage COVID-19 should a pandemic unfold in the country. There is no Communications centre sharing information regularly and neither is there financial provision set aside to support families who may be impacted, the majority of Zimbabweans have no formal jobs and do not have access to an income. These groups would be the most disadvantaged due to their lack of income and access to medical facilities would be a real challenge for them.

Other progressive African governments have already put in place measures to address and manage this crisis for example, Namibia cancelled its Independence celebrations commemorations scheduled for 21st March, the funds have been diverted to support the COVID-19 crisis.

This government is irresponsible, the leaders are insensitive, out of touch with reality and incapable of managing any crisis and do not have the people’s needs at heart.

Responsible leadership during a crisis is when a leader provides guidance and rallies the nation to action and to a common goal. The MDC President Nelson Chamisa, speaking in a video released yesterday addressed the nation and called everyone to action. He spoke about a common approach and response to this crisis. He added this crisis was no longer about politics and that the virus is class blind because it affects everyone, therefore we all have to pull our efforts together to overcome. He went on to advise that the country needed a Disaster Preparedness Framework which also includes churches working hand in hand with the people.

President Chamisa shared his concerns about the Zimbabwe Health system and Medical teams who he mentioned were incapacitated and that Zimbabwe’s health system is fragile and ill-equipped. Health professionals will need the necessary tools to equip them to be prepared to deliver their roles. The President called on the government to open call centres where information can be shared and other facilities at which people can access support if needed.

In his closing remarks, President Chamisa asked everyone to be on guard, alert, sensitive, vigilant, maintain good hygiene and to seek medical attention when someone felt ill. He ended by saying ‘we can only fight this crisis when we are fighting together and not in silos.’

President Chamisa’s call to action to the people and current government is demonstration of responsible leadership during a crisis. Leadership is about recognising ‘everyone’ and working together to overcome challenges, it takes more than ‘one’ to achieve a successful outcome. The wisdom to see what must be done and the courage to do it (even in the face of much criticism and ridicule) and the compassion to act for the good of all is a trait only a few have.

President Chamisa’s actions are very commendable and his actions draw out his wisdom, courage and compassion which are essential leadership traits and provide great insights into what is required to act responsibly.

Today, 16th March, Party President Adv Nelson Chamisa has initiated the ZimLOC campaign with a view to encourage preparedness especially in MDC-led councils. The initiative is also meant to ensure proactive participation of parliamentarians and increase awareness among citizens.

The nation must now pull together to get ready to work together for the good of the country.

Patricia Chinyoka

MDC UK & Ireland Province Spokesperson