IN AN unprecedented development, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, pictured, and his ministers held their weekly Cabinet meeting in a tent at State House yesterday, after it emerged that the late broadcaster Zororo Makamba visited the president’s Harare city centre offices last week, the Daily News reports.
This came as petrified staff at the Ministry of Finance’s Harare offices were also told to temporarily work from home, after the late talented journalist — the youngest son of business mogul James Makamba — also held meetings there before he was later diagnosed with the lethal virus.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that Zororo had indeed visited the President’s offices, and that this week’s Cabinet meeting had been held in the open at State House.
“When he (Zororo) visited, I was not at the office. But he indeed came here. He was a talented young man. What a loss.
“We are taking precautions (as a result) and Cabinet is being held at State House … in the open, where there is enough ventilation.
“This is in line with the guidelines that we maintain social distancing as per the recommendations. We have to show by actions what should be done during these times,” Charamba said.
On his part, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s spokesperson, Clive Mphambela, vehemently denied reports that the Treasury boss and his permanent secretary, George Guvamatanga, had made contact with Zororo during his visit to the ministry’s offices.
Instead, Mphambela revealed, it was him who had held a meeting with the 30-year-old late broadcaster — who was buried yesterday at the family’s farm along the Harare-Nyamapanda highway.
Mphambela is currently in self-isolation.
“Zororo passed through my office as I’m the one who deals with communication. We did not physically touch though, as we had already initiated sanitisation and distancing protocols at the office.
“He was in my office for approximately 10 minutes. And all the while he was seated almost three metres away from me. I was behind my desk.
“Zororo had no contact at all with the minister (Mthuli). He also had no contact with the permanent secretary,” Mphambela said.
Zororo’s death has brought under the spotlight the country’s apparent lack of capacity to deal with the lethal coronavirus, which has killed more than 17 000 people and infected hundreds of thousands others around the world.
On Monday, his distraught family narrated a heart-rending story in an exclusive interview with the Daily News about how Wilkins Hospital was ill-prepared for coronavirus — leading to them feeling “betrayed” by authorities.
Family spokesperson Tawanda Makamba also revealed to the Daily News in the explosive interview how Zororo had returned from New York, the United States of America with a mild cold, where he had been for 10 days.
An initial test by his doctor for coronavirus suggested that he did not have the disease.
“On Friday last week, he started developing a fever and his doctor recommended that he be admitted.
“This is because Zororo had a tumour removed from just under his left lung in November last year, and he was under an 18-month recovery time-frame.
“His immune system was thus already compromised. So, the doctor was keen that he gets into hospital to receive proper medication and care,” Tawanda said.
After there had been delays in testing his samples at Wilkins, the family took Zororo home as he needed oxygen.
“His GP (General Practitioner) phoned around and an ambulance delivered the oxygen and soon after we got the positive results for coronavirus at about 2am the following day.
“They told us that now that they had confirmed that he had the virus, he had to be taken to Wilkins for treatment.
“We then inquired if we could bring him immediately and we were told that the hospital was not ready to receive coronavirus patients,” Tawanda further told the Daily News.
“So, later that morning we waited and waited and they were still not ready to admit him. He ended up being admitted at around 10am or 11am.
“His doctor made it clear that he had to be on a ventilator because he could not breathe.
“However, when we got to Wilkins Hospital, there was no ventilator, no medication and even the oxygen would run out and they had to get it from the City of Harare,” Tawanda added.
“After that we ran around to find a ventilator and we managed to get a portable one from a family friend who had a relative who used it before he died,” he said further.
Tawanda also said the hospital did not have any medication to help Zororo to breathe — medicines that the family had to source urgently from South Africa.
“We then brought the ventilator on Sunday by 2pm and when we got here (Wilkins), because the portable ventilator had an American plug, they told us to get an adapter because they only had round sockets at the hospital.
“I then rushed to buy an adapter and came back but they never used it, and when I asked why, they said they had no plugs in his room.
“I told them that I had an extension cord and pleaded with them to use the cord, but they refused,” Tawanda added.
Attempts were then made to take Zororo to Health Point Clinic, where he was operated on in November, but the family was stopped from doing so.
“We then appealed to (Health) Minister (Obadiah) Moyo that since Wilkins was not prepared, could we take him to Health Point, but he refused.
“We were puzzled and wondered how he could say that Zororo should be treated at Wilkins when they didn’t even have plugs in his room to connect the ventilator.
“He promised us all sorts of things that this morning (on Monday) there would be a ventilator and equipment, but nothing has materialised,” Tawanda further told the Daily News.
“If you go and visit Wilkins you will see for yourself that they are not prepared to handle cases like this. The minister at some point also suggested that we could take Zororo to a trauma centre in Borrowdale.
“But when it was time for us to go to Borrowdale Trauma Centre, they stopped us,” he added.
“Instead, they got the owner of Borrowdale Trauma Centre to call me and he told me that he could come and set up an ICU at Wilkins for Zororo, complete with a ventilator and monitors, but he said that we would have to pay US$120 000 for the equipment.
“He added that once Zororo finished using the equipment and recovered, we would have to donate the equipment to Wilkins Hospital.
“So, basically the hospital wanted us to buy the equipment for them. We don’t have US$120 000 and it is not our responsibility to buy equipment for the government,” Tawanda said.
“On top of that, and remember this was a critical patient, nurses would only visit him after two hours because they were afraid of handling his situation.
“We were having to phone from home, calling the nurse station to tell them that Zororo was in distress and that his oxygen was finished because they were not going to check on him.
“It even got to a point where they were telling us that we were bothering them, but Zororo was struggling in there,” the emotional Tawanda also said.
“The minister lied to us on many occasions, including that they were going to bring equipment and doctors, but nothing materialised.
“We reached out to President Mnangagwa and the First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa, who promised us that Zororo could be transferred to Beatrice and that there was a room for him. But nothing came out of that.
“At the end, before he died, Zororo kept telling us that he was alone and scared and that the staff were refusing to help him to a point where he got up and tried to walk out and they were trying to restrain him.
“I want people to know that the government is lying,” Tawanda added.