First Information Ministry PS, now Minister Belekanyama succumbing to COVID-19 in just 24hrs

Belekanyama joins Information Ministry PS Kantchentche

By Duncan Mlanjira

Minister of Local Government, Lingson Belekanyama has died on Tuesday and reports indicate that he has succumbed to COVID-19 related complications, becoming a second high profile citizen to die of the deadly disease in just 24 hours.

On Monday, death was announced of Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Information, Ernest Kantchentche in which Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako confirmed it was through COVID-19 he was diagnosed some two weeks ago and went into self-isolation.

Information Ministry PS Kantchentche

Kazako also confirmed that Belekanyama, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Member of Parliament for Lilongwe Msinja South, had tested positive for the virus and was on self-isolation.

Just as was the case of Kantchentche, Belekanyama’s burial will be done as per COVID-19 procedures.

Kazako said in Belekanyama, Malawi has lost  “a true patriot, hard worker, unifying factor and  someone very focused,” while Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eisenhower Mkaka — who is also MCP legislator for Lilongwe Mpenu — said this “is an incalculable loss to the Malawi Congress Party”.

Kazako, Malawi has lost a true patriot

“We have lost a symbol of loyalty, dedication and discipline in you Hon. Lingson Belekanyama! May your precious soul rest in eternal peace.”

Unconfirmed reports indicate that several Cabinet Ministers have tested COVID-19 positive as death toll and number of new positive cases continue to rise in the second wave of the pandemic that has hit the country very hard.

Several high profile citizens have succumbed to the disease including Malawi pop diva Lady Groove Maria Chidzanja Nkhoma, who passed on on Saturday morning.

Gone too soon, Lady Groove Maria Chidzanja
Nkhoma (right)

Since New Year’s Day, the country has recorded a total of 46 COVID-19 related deaths, whose highest were 12 on Saturday and 10 on Monday, bringing the total figure at 235 since the pandemic broke out last April.

The rapid increase in the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases, admissions and deaths during the past three weeks is becoming worrisome such that President Lazarus Chakwera pleaded with the citizenry that there is need “to get our act together as a nation and take a stand against this enemy”.

In a national radio address, Chakwera said. “During the festive season over the last few weeks, many of us relaxed our vigilance against the virus, and now we are paying the price.

President Chakwera, we are paying the price

“We are paying the price because many of us are back to the old ways of not wearing masks. Many of us are back to the old ways of not 

maintaining our distance from others. Many of us are back to the old ways of not washing our hands regularly.

“When I say many of us, I am including myself and all of us who are working in government. But our collective relaxation against the virus needs to end with immediate effect.

Situation on Monday

“We simply cannot afford to let this virus advance any further. We must stop it in its tracks and stop it from conducting yet another crusade of death in our midst,” he had said.

Since his address, when the figure of active cases was at 2067, it rose to 2,744 by Monday evening on which there were 452 new COVID-19 cases, 10 new related deaths.

Situation on Sunday

And of the new cases, 154 were identified among 700 Malawian returnees from South Africa, who had been detained at Mapanga Prison Training School along Zomba Road.

Unfortunately, the returnees rioted on Sunday and several were reported to have bolted from camp, thereby posing a huge risk in the communities they have headed to.

Situation on Saturday

A situation report from co-chairperson of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. John Phuka, said of the active cases, 102 active cases were admitted in 13 hospitals across the country — 45 in Blantyre, 31 in Lilongwe, five in Zomba, four in Mzimba South, three each in Mzimba North, Karonga, and Nkhotakota, two each in Balaka and Chikwawa, and one each in Dowa, Mchinji, Rumphi, and Mulanje districts.

There are just 14 new recoveries, bringing total number of recoveries at 5,838 and of the new cases, 20 were imported identified at Mwanza border through routine screening of people entering the country — making a total of 174 as imported while 278 of the new cases are locally transmitted infections.

Coronavirus alert