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Zimbabwe’s Arts sector tackles Covid-19

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“Zimbabwe, we will beat Corona” – A refrain by Brian Machingura from one of Zimbabwe’s several jingles composed by musicians in the cultural sector’s contribution to the fight against COVID-19. Machingura’s song is highly informative as he introduces himself, and implores his listeners to pay attention before he goes into the specifics of what he terms “a disease that has spread all around the world.” His song touches on preventive hygiene measures, symptoms of infection, and even provides the hotline number to call should an individual believe that they are infected – all without breaking the melody.

Zimbabwe is a Southern African country with a low-income economy which has been in the throes of economic difficulty for decades. As the pandemic was spreading, the country was among those feared to suffer most severely from the ravages of the virus on account of its fragile healthcare system – itself a victim of years of economic hardship. However, the low COVID toll until now belies the circumstances of the country. How has Zimbabwe managed to escape the worst of COVID-19, while also being ranked a respectable 42nd in the world in its COVID response? The answer is quite possibly prevention. And while lockdowns and restrictions played a role, information dissemination has been crucial in the fight against COVID-19. It seems that the country was able to learn from previous infectious disease outbreaks such as the 2008 cholera epidemic which tragically killed over 4 000 people to muster all its information machinery in the fight against infectious diseases.

COVID-19 has required a quick change of habits with handwashing, and the introduction of social-distancing into the lexicons of many households. The arts sector has played a huge role in this through its contribution of several songs that range in content from appeals to spirituality to unite the country, to practical advice on prevention. Local television soap operas have also incorporated the pandemic as a theme in their storylines. In a country where a significant portion of the population relies on television for information on the pandemic, the effort by cultural players cannot go unnoticed. In this spirit, the organisers for the Zimbabwe Music Awards (ZIMA) announced a new award category for “Best COVID-19 Awareness Song”, which was eventually won by an Acapella group Indosakusa for its song, aptly titled “COVID-19”, highlighting the difficulties posed by the pandemic, while also encouraging listeners to be vigilant and to educate themselves about the virus.

While vaccinations are underway, these are still moving at a slow pace. While the socio-economic and public health cost of the virus is yet to be determined, prevention will be the best defence in Zimbabwe for some time to come. The country’s musicians, actors and artists have shown themselves to be equal to the task of keeping the public informed and entertained at the same time.

Author of the article: Tonderai Matanda.
Image Copyright: Unsplash / Trust “Tru” Katsande.

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