Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was one of the many high-profile politicians who chose not to participate in a voluntary and symbolic HIV/Aids testing and circumcision initiative by members of Parliament last week.
The exercise by legislators was meant to set an example as Zimbabwe fights both disease and the misplaced stigma against it. Tsvangirai, who is the leader of government business in Parliament, was one of the notable absentees - who included most of the cabinet - when dozens of MPs were circumcised in Parliament on Friday as part of a fabled anti-HIV/Aids drive in the country.
Tsvangirai's coalition partner, President Robert Mugabe, was away in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for a UN summit when the initiative took off. Those who chose to participate in the HIV drive included Tsvangirai's deputy Thokozani Khupe and Speaker of the House Lovemore Moyo, who both declared their status soon after.
Up to 68 politicians, some with their spouses, voluntarily went under the knife in a display of commitment to fight the killer disease that is claiming up to 2,000 people every week in the troubled nation. Zimbabwe parliamentarians Against HIV/Aids chairperson, Blessing Chebundo, regretted the fact that most of the executive had snubbed the campaign, save for four officials.
"What we did as the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against HIV/Aids committee was that we sent a letter through Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to the executive arm of government, that is the Cabinet, of which the letter was read last Tuesday in Cabinet. We were informed that the invite was read to all members who were advised of the event and we were told that it was a full house and the Prime Minister was there too," Cheburo told Dailynews on Sunday.
"We have only been able to see responses in terms of Madam Khupe and on Friday she went for voluntary counselling and testing, co-minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone, the Speaker of the House of Assembly (Lovemore Moyo) and the deputy minister of Information and Publicity (Murisi Zwizwai). In terms of higher offices above us, those are the only people who responded."
Legislators say an endorsement from the PM and other cabinet members would have had an enormous positive impact in terms of getting the population to accept circumcision. Tsvangirai, instead officiated at First Sewage Treatment Plant near Glen View in Harare, where he blamed the 2008 cholera deaths on ZANU PF.
Around 70,000 men are believed to have been voluntarily circumcised since 2009 as part of a government drive to tackle the disease and the stigma around it. In Tsvangirai's case, his apparent snub of the initiative may open him to political attack by his GNU adversaries.
Just two weeks ago, Mugabe inferred at a meeting of his Zanu PF Women's League at the Zimbabwe Institute of Public Administration Management (Zipam) that the MDC leader was plagued by ailments even though he accuses the president of being 'frail'.
"Tsvangirai says that I am very frail but isu tinoziva zvirwere zviri muvanhu. Kune maARVs ndiwo ari kusimbaradza vanhu," said President Mugabe.
Serial political flip-flopper and Zanu PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo has also pushed the same allegations, accusing the PM of having an 'OPEN-ZIP' and shut-mind policy. dailynews