Opinion & Columnist

Lockdown without safety nets difficult to observe

President Mnangagwa

WE are fighting the spread of COVID-19 through a lockdown, which is a good thing. But beneath the crisis, there is greater crisis of all time.

Beitbridge Border Post is flooded with Zimbabweans trying to escape economic hardships back home, hoping for a better life in South Africa.

Our country’s major highways were congested, particularly Mutare-Harare Highway close to Mabvuku at a checkpoint where motorists spent at most three hours before passing through.

Incidents like these signify lack of co-ordination and planning. An announcement concerning the issuance of movement and exemption letters by parent ministries was made at the end of day on Monday. And the following morning, police officers manning checkpoints demanded the letters, how feasible is that?

The lockdown was announced without measures to capacitate the vulnerable.

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Zimbabwe is largely an informal economy where the majority survives on vending and operating small businesses.

Generally, surveys are showing that the majority has complied with the lockdown measures, meaning that they understand that they have a responsibility to fight the pandemic.

Other countries have put in place COVID-19 relief funds for individuals and organisations to cushion them so that people don’t go hungry and companies do not shut down.

Our government also announced a similar scheme, and confirmed it had made payments but a number of Zimbabweans who are in need of financial support professed ignorance of the programme.

For transparency purposes, the government should provide a list of those that benefited, the criteria used to select beneficiaries and how much they got.

Anything short of that would prove beyond doubt that our lockdown wasn’t planned. The leadership  forgot the poor, the vulnerable and the ailing industry.

Chances are high, just like before, people will violate COVID-19 regulations when hunger strikes.

Signs of an ailing economy are already showing as thousands are flooding Beitbridge Border Post en-route to South Africa. Our government should spare a thought for the suffering Zimbabweans who are being terrorised home and away. So far no efforts have been made to engage the South African government to make sure those heading south travel safely and those who were arrested as illegal immigrants return home in one piece.

It is government’s responsibility to protect citizens at home and abroad. We should have learnt from the previous lockdown, and this was actually our chance to improve. This exposes government‘s inability to make informed decisions on crucial matters.

Yes the country needed a lockdown, but not an impromptu one. By now talk of the vaccine should be in motion. A decision on how funds are going to be disbursed and which pharmaceutical company will be handling the vaccine should have been made.

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Surely the government should by now know that lies have short legs. Just yesterday, it gave  assurances that all is okay, there is a budget surplus, and we have enough as far as medication is concerned.

The permanent secretary for the Information ministry said our health system was overwhelmed, in contrast to the Acting President’s statement that the country is well prepared.

It‘s high time our government acted in the public interest for a change.

 

NEWSDAY