Zimbabwe president defies own travel ban over coronavirus to attend Namibia swearing-in

AFP , Saturday 21 Mar 2020

Emmerson Mnangagwa
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses the media at State House in Harare, Zimbabwe, Tuesday, March 17, 2020 (Photo: AP)

Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa attended the investiture of his Namibian counterpart Hage Geingob in Windhoek on Saturday, defying his own government's ban on anyone leaving the country over coronavirus.

Mnangagwa had insisted earlier in the week in Harare that he was equally bound to observe the travel ban. "I will only go out when it is necessary, inevitable," he said.

But on Saturday, Mnangagwa was present in Namibia at the swearing in of President Geingob, just a day after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Zimbabwe, where the health services are at breaking point.

"We will stand with you in our common quest to consolidate and deepen regional and continental integration, more so in the wake of present threats such as COVID-19," Mnangagwa told Geingob who was re-elected in November.

Geingob has declared a state of emergency in Namibia which has so far confirmed two cases of the virus.

Zimbabwe's first case was confirmed in the region of Victoria Falls. Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa said on Saturday that two new cases had been detected in the capital Harare but the authorities have not yet commented.

The impact of the pandemic could be catastrophic for a country which has been living for several decades in economic crisis.

President Mnangagwa this week declared the pandemic a "national disaster" and outlawed gatherings of more than 100 people.

Only one other head of state, the Angolan president Joao Lourenco, made the trip to Windhoek for the ceremony which, because of the virus, took place at the presidential palace rather than in a stadium.

Several hundred guests witnessed the swearing-in but only after having their temperatures taken and being given hydroalcoholic gel to clean their hands.

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