A FAMILY from Makokoba whose relative died at home, sparking a Covid-19 scare has accused a police officer who attended the scene of spreading the unfounded story that the death was due to coronavirus.
Residents in one of the city’s oldest suburbs have reportedly started stigmatising the family, even after health experts dispelled the rumour that Danisa Tshili, who was based in South Africa, died of Covid-19.
The family is facing challenges in buying basics as vendors who know them are afraid to accept their money.
Mourners are said to be keeping their distance as they fear Tshili’s family members may be infected.
Tshili died on Wednesday, hours after returning from the neighbouring country.
His family yesterday said he was attacked by thugs in South Africa and had returned to receive home care.
They said prior to being attacked, he had returned home about a week ago to get a new emergency passport to renew his work permit that had expired.
His sister, Ms Siphathisiwe Tshili, said when they had called police and Doves Funeral Parlour to remove his body from the house when an officer after checking his travelling history made ‘reckless and unfounded claims’ that since he was in South Africa, he could have died of coronavirus.
“This is what caused Doves Funeral Services to stop the process of retrieving his body. They removed it when they came for the third time upon arrival of city health officials. Before his death, he had visited a clinic in South Africa which had recommended that he be admitted so that they monitor his situation. But considering that he had no one to take care of him in the neighbouring country, he opted to come back home. His body was only removed after health officers from Bulawayo City Council visited the house and went through his medical papers,” said Ms Tshili.
She said it made no sense for the police officer to make unsubstantiated claims when he had documents detailing his medical history.
Ms Tshili said the falsehood has resulted in neighbours and other relatives avoiding the family as they seem to still believe members are infected.
“Neighbours are now sceptical. Some of them do not want to come close to us because of the fear this has caused. I wanted to buy tomatoes at the market, but because some people who knew me refused to take my money. After the matter was published in the paper, we also got a lot of calls from our relatives who stay far and wide trying to understand the truth of the matter. Some of them were even afraid to come to the funeral wake saying if it is coronavirus, it might wipe us all as a clan,” Ms Tshili said.
She said even those who might have assisted in making burial arrangements, may stay away from them.
Ms Tshili said if her brother had died of Covid-19, it was automatic that the family was going to be placed on isolation but because it is not, they are still going about burial preparations.
Area councillor Shadreck Sibanda, who was also at the family home called for professionalism in the police force.
“We can’t have a police officer who is supposed to be guided by professionalism being casual with information. Right now, a lot of people in Makokoba might not know what the real truth is just because of such reckless behaviour. I believe the Zimbabwe Republic Police should censure officers from spreading falsehood. I also want to encourage residents to avoid spreading information that they have not verified,” said Cllr Sibanda.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said his office was not aware of the development.
“As police, we were never informed of corona. The Makokoba incident was never linked to corona. We’re treating it as sudden death. Corona can only be declared by a competent medical team,” said Insp Ncube.
Bulawayo has not recorded a Covid-19 case despite the country recording seven cases, one of them fatal. Authorities have also expressed concern over fake news circulating over Covid-19.