In this week’s instalment of the covid-19 interview Great Dyke News 24 Editor Moses Charedzera (MC)talks to YAFM Chairman Munyaradzi Hwengwere (MH) on the hosting of a webinar by the station recently and his personal battle with covid-19.
MC. YAFM on the 29th of January 2021 held its first webinar in the series Beating Covid-19 Infections. How was the webinar received by the stakeholders and the public?
MH: Thank you Moses and Great Dyke News 24 for giving me the opportunity to speak on matters dear to me. From really what we saw on the covid-19 webinar it was well received by stakeholders. We had obviously our mainstream audiences on YA FM tuned in. We had audiences in Zimbabwe, in South Africa and in the UK among other places
We got a lot of questions really with issues ranging around the full value chain, testing, vaccination treatment and there was a general appreciation that it was the right thing to do for YA FM.What is more important is our philosophy both as MERJKH Communications who are an advisory services company that focuses in the mining and agriculture sectors. These are the two sectors we work in. But clearly with what covid-19 had done, is it is disrupting not only those sectors that are not working and those that are working.
How do you go to work when perhaps the person you are leaving at home is not feeling well? How do you go to work when you suspect that the person you could be working with is possibly infected? How do you work when you get infected yourself? So even those sectors that are working, we must understand that covid-19 is taking a toll emotionally, economically and socially.
So, it was the right thing for us to do as YA FM. YA FM is the Voice for the Great Dyke, this 500km stretch and YA FM must speak to matters that affect people on a day to day basis, so it was a right thing for us to do.
MC: Why did you decide to focus on covid-19?
MH: Ever since I was born (I was born before the peak of the liberation struggle) I saw a bit of the liberation struggle myself but trust me I have never ever experienced anything which has devastated local and global communities the way covid-19 has disrupted work, business, social life and therefore it is the one thing in our times that we must focus on.
So, if you are a broadcaster and communicator and you don’t focus on covid-19 what else do you focus on?
MC: The webinar was unique as it was broadcast live on YAFM. What was the idea of broadcasting it simultaneously on both platforms?
We have always said at YA FM we must understand that our communication is not limited to the means of communication-radio. That is perhaps the problem to call it radio, no it’s not about radio.
It’s about speaking to somebody whether you are entertaining them, educating, informing them. Whatever is in between it is the primary essence of what you do and therefore you must never be limited by the medium.
We started of coursewith the radio, transmitters, but we realised there are opportunities brought up by the growth of information technologies.
You can broadcast from anywhere, you can be linked with anyway, so really for us we wanted to demonstrate our understanding, that our mission is not limited to transmitters.
Our mission is about speaking to the communities wherever there are, be it in London, Capetown, the Great Dyke itself, tobring them together and covid-19 basically has brought to the forefront that technology matters.
The digital world is the way to go simply because you cannot meet does not mean you cannot speak to each other; it does not mean you cannot impact on each other.
So, it is our hope that by 2025 across all our platforms as YA FM we are totallytransformed, we will be a full multimedia service which is on radio, on TV and on digital service because our focus is the content not the form.
MC: The webinar had a stellar cast of five doctors from the public and private sectors. What were you hoping to achieve by bringing so many doctors on one platform?
MH: We were deliberate on our webinar because we realised that yes there’s been a lot of focus on prevention of covid-19 which is a good message and that we must keep doing, masking, sanitising, and maintaining social distance -that is the first line of defence. But we have realised that if that defence is breachedwhat happens?
We have not been a society talking about it. Zimbabwe has experienced over a thousand deaths, most of them in the last few months because that defence got broken and we were not prepared. So, it was prudent to bring medical doctors to deal with the issues of what do we do and to understand the role of testing.
Let us understand what actually happens when I get infected. Do I die simply because I have covid-19? Can I be treated? Where do I get treated? Where is the infrastructure and who provides that? So, it was a conversation that was necessary. Those were necessary discussions that we need to have.
MC: Coming to yourself, you are also a covid-19 survivor. What made you to go for the Covid-19 test?
I got to know that I was also infected on the 14th of January 2021.I was meant to travel perhaps if I was not travelling, Iwould not have gone for the test but it was imperative for me to go for the test. To tell the truth when I got to do my test, I knew I was not feeling quite like myself.
I was not feeling too sick,neither was I feeling 100% fit but I put it to a hangover, perhaps I had taken a little too much of wine the previous day. My knees were aching and I had some backache, I had a slight flue.
MC: How did you receive the test results?
MH: The first thing was how do I tell my family and I hope I am the only one who has this. As it is, four other family members tested positive and we had to be strong about it.
Just as well we have a family friend who is a medical doctor, we made sure he quickly came on board to assess us and he classified our symptoms as mild but he said we had to be careful so he put us all of us on medication.
He gave us vitamin C, zinc, and the antibiotic azithromycin and he said just monitor yourself during this time. The worst in terms of symptoms for some family members was loss of taste and smell.
I didn’t realise that as my appetite was good. My taste was great and I presumed I was okay until one day I decided to test my sense of smell. I couldn’t smell my deodorant; I tasted a lot of things and I too realised I had lost my sense of smell.
I exercise at home and with time my sense of smell came back and gradually the symptoms started going away. By day fourteenmost of the symptoms were gone. I went for a retest and I came out negative together with some family members as well.
MC: How did you spend the isolation period?
I am a very energetic person, even when I am talking on the phone, I walk from one place to the next. I am Mr. Energy himself; I love to jog. Being confined in my room was the worst and thank God there is Netflix. I would watch Netflix from the beginning of the day until I went to sleep.
With time I also decided that that this was an opportunity to write, to read, to plan and not to focus on the disease itself. But Iwould say I didn’t like my isolation but as soon as I felt that my symptoms were gone, I was back on my jogging and in fact I am jogging better than I was doing before.
MC: How was your recovery achieved?
MH: I think it’s a combination of many things. I think there is a psycho-social, there is a physical aspect and there are things that you can really mention, of course there’s the issue of the medical doctor.
I would not want to over praise myself or other family members because this virus attacks us differently and so without knowing specifically how we are attacked it is very easy to then say we had mild symptoms because we are fit or healthy.
It doesn’tmean those things are not important and for me physicality, keeping healthy, watching what I eat, exercising is important and I am sure it does contribute but I also think that sometimes it’s a fact that God is looking over you.
It’s not yet your time and maybe there is a bigger mission for us to fulfill in this world so Ithink it’s a matter of many things. It’s the physical condition, themedical access that you have, the food that you eat and things that you have done before that help. But I also think that sometimes it’s the way we were made by God and the fact that there is a force above all of us.
There are many who have gone through this pain of covid-19. Some have lost their loved ones, some are sick.
I have been told of people who say I have never experienced so much pain in my life, I felt like every part of my body was aching. So, this disease affects not just the person who dies, but the immediate family, and those that get infected and those that are afraid that they can get infected.
MC: Is covid-19 beatable?
MH: Ultimately let’s get the statistics right. Over 100 million people have been infected, over 2 million have died from covid-19. It has killed quite a lot more than the world wars for sure but it has not broken society so the average person must know covid-19 is beatable which is the essence of our webinar.
Increasingly we are told it’s how you manage it. Yes, you can prevent it and secondly even if you are attacked for the majority of people its mild and if you do the right things you survive it. Even in extreme cases people with comorbidities beat it.
We had Honourable Larry Mavhima during the webinar saying I am diabetic, hypertensive but I beat covid-19, so the disease is not necessarily a death sentence but we need to be led by science which has become very topical and understand that we can prevent contracting the disease.
We need to know how it can be prevented and if we can manage it and to minimise, not if eliminate, people who die from covid-19 and we hope and pray that if vaccines come, in a year’s time we will be looking back on society and saying there was this disease which wanted to wipe us but humanity proved that it is stronger than the disease and God is still with us.
I hope we learn from many things that we are stronger with our families and we now know how we can continue working even from our homes.
There are benefits from the lockdowns in the way we are forced to come together as society and innovate. Even the vaccines,look at it, part of the fear around vaccines is that society has never created a vaccine in one year. So society in my view post covid-19 will be stronger than it was before.