Someone must be jailed for the cholera outbreak


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Sixty-year-old Emma Zhakata winces, struggling to hold back tears as she relates how her husband, one of 32 cholera victims in Zimbabwe, died within hours of falling ill.

She never suspected her 69-year-old husband, Wonder Zhakata, would die suddenly after complaining that he felt weak and was suffering stomach pain.

After she rushed her husband to a clinic, he was led to a tent to wait for treatment among patients suffering from cholera.

She never saw him alive.

“That was the last time we were allowed to see him… When we called to ask after his condition, we were informed that he died of cholera,” she said at her home in a suburb of Harare.

“It’s so scary that anyone of us can be walking now and the next moment, they are dead.”

In just two weeks, the cholera outbreak gripping Zimbabwe has claimed at least 32 lives and more than 7 000 cases have been reported. The government has declared a public health emergency in the capital Harare, the worst affected area.

After her husband’s death, Emma Zhakata’s family had to pay officials $515 (440 euros) for him to be buried safely without the risk of infecting others.

“They did everything. We were not even allowed to do body viewing. It felt like dumping rather than giving him a decent burial,” she said.

In Harare, public gatherings have been banned, street vendors ordered off the streets and people discouraged from shaking hands.

The gatherings even forced the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change to postpone a rally at which its leader Nelson Chamisa planned to proclaim himself victor of the July 30 presidential election.

Cholera outbreaks have occurred frequently in Zimbabwe’s cities where supplies of safe drinking water and sanitation facilities are scarce.

But President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded long-time despot Robert Mugabe following a brief army takeover in November, has pledged to tackle the current outbreak.

In his state of the nation address to Parliament on Tuesday, Mnangagwa said the government would do all it could to fight “this medieval disease”.

On Wednesday he toured cholera treatment centres in Harare where patients were being treated while others lay on stretchers in makeshift wards made from canvas and plastic.

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The Insider

The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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