Politicising ‘Covid-19’: an analysis of selected ZANU-PF officials’ 2020-2021 media statements on the pandemic in Zimbabwe


  • Paddington Mutekwe Centre for Social Change University of Johannesburg
  • Kudzaiishe Peter Vanyoro Wits Centre for Diversity Studies: University of the Witwatersrand




COVID-19, biopolitics, Zimbabwe, ZANU-PF, lockdown


This paper examines the politicisation of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe through discourse analysis of selected media statements released by Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) officials on the Covid-19 pandemic between March 2020 and February 2021. Theoretically, the paper employs Foucault’s theory of biopower to interpret the state- citizen power relations that surfaced in the Zimbabwean government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It argues that the ZANU-PF-led government used Covid-19 as an excuse to pursue its political interests. This is politics that protected ZANU-PF’s social, political and economic interests by using Covid-19 as an excuse to pulverise various forms of opposition. The argument advanced herein is that while the implementation of the lockdown in Zimbabwe was necessary to save lives, one of its consequences was the protection of self-interests through selective application of lockdown regulations and the passing of laws to silence critics. This resulted in the prohibition of political gatherings, arbitrary arrests, labelling and name-calling of the opposition and the West by ZANU-PF officials who were safeguarding their party’s waning support resulting from their mismanagement of the pandemic.


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Author Biographies

Paddington Mutekwe, Centre for Social Change University of Johannesburg

Paddington Mutekwe is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). His doctoral research investigates the dialectical relationship between resistance and repression in Civil Society Organizations in Zimbabwe between 2000 and 2020. He is a member of the UJ Centre for Social Change (UJCSC). He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Law, Honors and Master’s in Industrial Sociology. He has authored the article “Resistance and repression in Zimbabwe: a case study of Zimplats mine workers” which have been awarded the Ruth First Prize for the best article published by an African author in Review of African Political Economy in 2019. His research interests include issues related to social movements, resistance, race, class, labour and politics.

Kudzaiishe Peter Vanyoro, Wits Centre for Diversity Studies: University of the Witwatersrand

Kudzaiishe Vanyoro is a Critical Diversity Studies (CDS) PhD candidate at the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies (WiCDS).  His PhD research focuses on resilience and homing strategies among rural queer people in a South African rural town, under the supervision of Professor Melissa Steyn. Kudzaiishe holds an Honors Degree in Media and Society Studies and a Masters in Critical Diversity Studies. Overall his research interests are in gender, sexuality, media(ation), representation, cultural studies and critical diversity. He was awarded the DST-NRF SARChI funding in CDS for his Masters in 2018, and his PhD research in 2020.


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