What you need to know:
- The bloc has been hit hard by the virus following the deaths of 10 cabinet ministers in two weeks.
When news came out in June last year that Burundi’s Ex-President Pierre Nkurunziza had succumbed to Covid-19, it was seen as mere hearsay. But six months later, Burundi’s former president Pierre Buyoya died in Paris after contracting coronavirus.
The deadly virus has been slow to anchor its roots in Africa, when compared to other parts of the world, but it has gone on to claim the lives of high profile leaders across the region.
Four member states of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) have lost a total of 10 cabinet ministers to Covid-19 in just two weeks. Zimbabwe has lost four while Malawi lost two. Eswatini has lost two cabinet ministers and a Prime Minister to the pandemic during the past two weeks. South Africa has lost one.
Zimbabwean Transport minister Joel Matiza became the fourth serving minister in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet to succumb to the virus. Mr Matiza’s death came just days after the country lost its Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo.
On Friday last week, Zimbabwe also lost its minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs, Ellen Gwaradzimba.
Ms Gwaradzimba’s death came after that of then minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Perrance Shiri who succumbed to the virus in August last year.
In Eswatini, a minister succumbed to the disease two days ago, the country’s acting prime minister announced Sunday.
“His Majesty’s government notifies the nation of the sad passing of Member of Parliament Makhosi Vilakati, the Minister of Labour and Social Security,” Themba Masuku said at a press conference.
According to Mr Masuku, Mr Vilakati died on Saturday evening at a South African health facility where he had been admitted for a specialised treatment procedure arising from a Covid-19 infection.
Mr Vilakati became the second cabinet minister to die from Covid-19 after Minister of Public Service, Christian Ntshangase, who died last week.
Before that, Eswatini Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini died of Covid-19 in December last year while undergoing treatment in South Africa.
On January 12, Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera declared a state of disaster in an address to the nation delivered hours after two cabinet ministers died from Covid-19 amid a spike in coronavirus infections.
Transport minister Sidik Mia and Local Government minister Lingson Berekanyama both succumbed to the disease in the early hours of Tuesday, the government spokesman said.
Mr Chakwera, in his speech, called the deaths an “incalculable loss”.
The former governor of Malawi’s central bank, Mr Francis Perekamoyo, and the principal secretary in the Ministry of Information, Mr Ernest Kantchentche, have also died of the disease, the government said.
On Thursday of last week, news coming out of South Africa had it that South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed the death of minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, 62, — from complications related to Covid-19 which he contracted on January 11.
“It is with deep sorrow and shock that we announce that minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu passed away earlier today from Covid-related complications. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time of loss,” the President tweeted.
Sadc comprises 16-member States: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.