Latest News Editor's Choice


News / National

Govt mulls reviewing cash grants

by Staff reporter
14 Jun 2020 at 09:26hrs | Views
For Sharai Chivasa, a middle-aged mother of four from Harare's high-density suburb of Glen View 3, surviving the current pricing madness is equally as important as enduring the virulent coronavirus.

Having been a vendor for the greater part of her life, Sharai's world was put on hold when the country went into lockdown on March 30 this year.

This affected her source of livelihood.

It even got grimmer.

Her husband, Maxwell Chivasa's illegal shack, which sheltered his small tailoring business, was demolished by Harare City Council (HCC).

"The profit I realised from vending was not much, but we were managing and I could support my family," said Sharai.

"But the lockdown came and while we were pondering the next move, my husband's shack was destroyed. We did not know where to start."

The Government, however, swiftly moved in by setting aside a $600 million kitty to cushion the disabled and vulnerable members of society such as Sharai, who are smarting from the fallout of the life-wrecking pandemic.

The fund is meant to provide succour through cash transfers to beneficiaries.

Sharai's family is among those that were receiving the monthly grant, which was initially set at $200.

Raging monster

The money used to go a long way in helping buy essentials, but as prices, particularly of basic commodities, began soaring, the vulnerable are now fighting from many fronts.

A 10kg packet of roller meal now costs more than $200 on the black market, while a 2-litre bottle of cooking oil requires one to part with not less than $150. But, a subsidised 10kg packet of roller meal is still pegged at $70 on the formal market.

The Government had to chip in again and reviewed the cash transfers from $200 to $300.

Beneficiaries say the authorities should continuously review the allowances in line with developments in the market. Some believe the Government should consider food hampers instead of cash.

"I think it is better if they can give us groceries: basics like cooking oil, mealie-meal and other things; it would be much better," said Benjamin Chikeshe, a former commuter omnibus driver and a father of two who recently started receiving the much-needed financial support.

Rallying support

Government, which has had the misfortune of dealing with the pandemic after two successive years of drought and sanctions from the United States (US) and the European Union (EU), is using its own limited resources to try and bail out the vulnerable.

Despite these limitations, there are plans to upwardly review the $300 cash transfers.

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Paul Mavima told The Sunday Mail Society that although authorities were hamstrung, they would not abandon the people, especially during their hour of need.

In fact, more beneficiaries will join the programme.

"We are aware of the inflationary pressures and the figure will be reviewed soon. We are also looking to add a further 100 000 beneficiaries to the 109 000 that we currently have," he said.

"Currently, we have 150 000 beneficiaries that is if we add the other 40 000 that are benefiting through social welfare. We are also working with Silo to make sure that more shops are opened in both rural and urban centres."

As part of a multi-layered and multi-pronged approach, the Government already has a parallel programme through which it has been providing food relief to vulnerable families in rural and urban areas.

Its efforts are being complemented by corporates, organisations, embassies, churches and individuals who have opened up their hearts and wallets.

Families are now receiving foodstuffs like mealie-meal, cooking oil, sugar and personal protective equipment (PPE).

A report produced by the United Nations (UN) in April this year warned that "economic hardships experienced by families as a result of the global economic downturn" could cause significant disruption to livelihoods.

Not only has Covid-19 affected economic activity by the formal and informal sectors, it has also disrupted global supply chains for raw materials and food supplies.

Prices, as a result, have been rising.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) estimates that the monthly consumer basket for a family of six has since jumped from $1 554,28 in May to $7 171,22, representing a massive rise in the cost of living in one month only.

Chairperson for the Older Persons' Board Priscilla Gavi reckons that the vulnerabilities caused by coronavirus and its attendant challenges are likely to be keenly felt by older persons (OP).

"By staying at home, those OP who relied on informal trading are suffering," she noted.

"This may result in loss of dignity, mental health, emotional trauma, adhering to hygienic practices when one is leaving with diseases like Alzheimer's.

"Violence against OP may have escalated as they found themselves spending more time with some of their perpetrators. OP having suffered many health challenges continue to suffer as resources are channelled towards Covid-19."

Food hampers, he added, might help insulate older persons, who mostly depend on their pensions, against inflation.

The unprecedented scale of challenges wrought by coronavirus mean "Government cannot do this alone", said Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Association (CZR) president Denford Mutashu.

Communities should, therefore, consider establishing community programmes and promoting self-sufficiency, he said.

"It is time for the community to grab that power through doing projects like soap making, farming and other activities so that they do not depend much on these suppliers. "The Government cannot do this alone (control commodity prices), we need communities to complement the efforts, self-sufficiency is the way to go," added Mutashu.

CZR also blamed big suppliers of adopting an unhelpful punitive pricing regime.

Source - sundaymail

Subscribe

Email: