HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba sparked internet outrage on Tuesday when, responding to reports that the Beitbridge mortuary had shut down due to power cuts, he said bereaved families must quickly bury the dead and not “burden the state with corpses.”
“Why should corpses be kept? Bury them!” Charamba said on Twitter. “Keep your corpse at your house if you love the bizarre. Just don’t burden the state with corpses.”
Beitbridge District Hospital announced on November 9 that it had temporarily suspended mortuary services.
“The decision has been brought about as a result of the lengthy power cuts and high temperatures being experienced hence rendering the mortuary equipment non-functional,” the hospital said.
“As a result of this, no new bodies will be accepted for storage in the mortuary.”
Zimbabwe is in the grips of its worst economic crisis in over a decade, with power cuts lasting 18 hours daily and salaries shrivelled by inflation which was 380 percent in September.
The power shortages have affected key installations like hospitals, while leaving manufacturing sectors almost redundant.
Charamba, using his Twitter moniker @jamwanda2, showed no sympathy for bereaved families.
“Mortuaries are holding operations. When we run short of power, as is the case presently, bereaved families must be encouraged to speedily take their dead for final rest. Stands to reason. You can’t condemn the government on the basis of unreasonableness on the part of the other party,” Charamba tweeted.
He added in another tweet: “And I repeat boldly: THERE IS NO NEED TO KEEP CORPSES! You can’t make a case for stable power supply for the country on grounds that morgues must remain staked with corpses! It would have been absurd is it wasn’t macabre. Get real guys!”
His comments attracted fury from Zimbabweans, who pointed out that families may want to keep a corpse in the morgue for many reasons – including post-mortem procedures and waiting for relatives from afar before burial.
The power crisis was the government’s creation in the first place, the social media respondents said.
“The arrogance is sickening,” said one.
“They are punishing us even in death. We are in the worst of times,” said another Twitter user.
Added another: “George and his ilk live in a parallel universe – power and impunity thereof has absolved them of reason, empathy, responsibility and duty to our culture. But nothing last forever, the cloak will fall to the ground one day. What will we see? What will happen then?”
Charamba also used Twitter to attack doctors who have been on strike since September 3, claiming they had tested the Zanu PF government to the limits of its patience.
“I made it clear to the junior doctors there is a limit to how much abuse you can pile on a sitting government. We can’t have yearly cycles of labour unrest in the same sector. Last year, I knew no sleep because of the same. Ask anyone involved. Anyway, people don’t die any more, any less from a service which is already withdrawn. The cycle just has to end,” Charamba said.
Many families in Zimbabwe live on one meal a day after the country lurched into a major downturn that has provoked biting shortages of basics such as fuel and medicine.
Doctors and other government workers have declared “incapacitation” as they say their salaries have been eroded by inflation so much so they have to use their own money to turn up for work.
Teachers last week declared that they would start working a two-day week while nurses already work a three-day week.
Police on November 6 broke up a planned protest by civil servants in Harare as anger grows against Mnangagwa’s regime.
Source: Zim Live