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Zimbabwe fails to make lockdown payments to 'vulnerable'

by Staff reporter
13 May 2020 at 16:49hrs | Views
Zimbabwe has not made any disbursements from a Z$600 million fund announced in March to support vulnerable people affected by the coronavirus lockdown, ministers admitted on Tuesday.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube announced the fund on March 30, the same day the country began a 30-day lockdown to curb the spread of the virus.

The fund would support "one million vulnerable households under a cash transfer programme and payment will commence immediately," Ncube announced.

On Tuesday, social welfare minister Professor Paul Mavima admitted no payments had been made more than a month later, amid claims by the former finance minister Tendai Biti that the government is "broke in absolute terms" and is struggling even to pay public sector workers.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Mavima said: "Cabinet instructed that we re-interrogate the database to make sure that we are paying really vulnerable people and this is what has gotten us back to the drawing board.

"From the original database, we have verified 90,000 people who are now in the process of being paid."

Mavima said the Z$200 (US$8) they originally planned to pay out to each beneficiary had been shrivelled by inflation, and the amount to be paid had now been upped to Z$300 (US$12).

"The direction by cabinet to say go back and look at your social welfare criteria was really a worthwhile thing to do," Mavima insisted. "I'm going to be whipping the department responsible and meet them tomorrow (Wednesday) to make sure that the whole process is expedited. As soon as we verify, then we pay. If we verify 20,000 people, we go ahead and pay those 20,000 so that the value of the support is not eroded further."

Ncube previously claimed that the government had used a "sophisticated algorithm" to select beneficiaries, although Mavima now admits they have been forced to reduce the number of beneficiaries.

MDC deputy president Biti said the government had failed millions of people whose livelihoods had been destroyed by the lockdown, which was extended for another 14 days on May 3.

"The regime is broke and broke in absolute terms. The coffers are empty and they are generating salaries through the RTGS ponzi scheme," Biti said.

"To date, Treasury has not disbursed safety-net payments to the ministry of social welfare. Tobacco sales have had a poor start and donors are not coming on board."

Up to seven million people in Zimbabwe, almost half of the population, were already at risk of starvation before the outbreak of the coronavirus, according to the World Food Programme.

Annual inflation has topped 676.39 percent, one of the highest rates in the world, as a currency that was re-introduced last year weakens amid acute shortages of foreign currency, food and hospitals short on medicines.

In a country where more than 80 percent of the working population work in the informal sector, the lockdown has left many families caught between staying at home and risking hunger, or venturing out on the streets to try to eke a living and risk contracting the coronavirus.

Source - zimlive