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Job hunters defy Covid-19 regulations

by Staff reporter
06 Jan 2021 at 06:51hrs | Views
BULAWAYO residents who survive on hunting for piece jobs are defying the Covid-19 lockdown regulations by continuing to flood the streets as part of their daily struggles to eke out a living.

The country has of late witnessed a high number of local infections amid fears that the second wave of the pandemic will be more deadly than the first.

As of Monday, Zimbabwe had recorded 15 829 cases and 384 deaths. However, job seekers believe hunger poses more danger than Covid-19, which is why they are now involved in cat-and-mouse games with law enforcement agents deployed in the streets to ensure lockdown compliance.

Government last Saturday reviewed the curfew and banned all gatherings, except for funerals, for 30 days as the country intensifies efforts to contain a surge in Covid-19 infections.

As was the case during the initial lockdown restrictions in March 2020, only essential services such as hospitals, pharmacies and supermarkets will remain open.

During the lockdown, people are supposed to be confined to their homes and may only leave to buy basic necessities at a supermarket or food retail store, or fuel or gas at a fuel or gas retail outlet, within a radius not exceeding five kilometres or the nearest establishment if those within the radius are closed.

A news team took to the streets and spoke to some of the job hunters operating at their spot at the intersection of 4th Avenue and Robert Mugabe Way in the city centre. They are always alert and are always in running battles with police, who want them to stay at home and observe the lockdown.

One of the job seekers, Ms Nomsa Nyoni (65) of Iminyela Flats in Mpopoma suburb, described the lockdown as a "curse" as it will inhibit her from accessing her hunting ground, which has turned into her sole source of livelihood for the past five years.

"I have been involved in this business of doing piece jobs for the past five years and that is how I managed to take care of my family including my orphaned grandchildren. I am the sole breadwinner and for me, this is my only source of livelihood and with this lockdown it means I will starve," she said.

Ms Nyoni said she was yesterday turned away by a Zupco bus crew after failing to produce an exemption letter allowing her to pass through the police checkpoint.

"I had to walk from Iminyela Flats in Mpopoma to town because I was turned away for failing to produce the required letter allowing me to pass through the checkpoint," she said.

Ms Nyoni looks after 13 children who depend on her for food, clothes and school fees. She said on a normal day, she makes at least US$20 through washing clothes and cleaning homes.

Another job seeker, who preferred to remain anonymous, urged Government to consider their plight during the lockdown period.

"While we are not categorised under personnel offering essential services, it is important for Government to consider exempting us from some of these lockdown regulations because we solely depend on piece jobs. In fact, we were not given enough time to prepare and budget for the lockdown," she said.

"It is easy to budget when you know that you have a monthly salary but for us who rely on piece jobs it is difficult."

Mr Dennis Mhlanga of Magwegwe said he was forced into hunting for menial jobs because of the economic situation. He said the lockdown has worsened his predicament as they are now forced to play hide and seek with police.

"Police are patrolling the streets on horse back and on foot and my fear is that if I get arrested my wife and children will starve. In fact, I managed to enter the city centre after lying to police officers manning a road block that I was a bus mechanic," he said.

Another job seeker, Mr Steward Ndlovu, said he lost his job as a fulltime gardener after his employer notified him that she could no longer afford his services.

"I used to work as a gardener at a house in Suburbs until 2018 when my employer terminated my contract. I then decided to join my friends here to tout for jobs and we have been operating until now when we are forced to stay at home as part of lockdown regulations," he said.

Ms Nomalanga Dube from Makokoba said hunting for jobs in the streets is not safe, especially for women.

"We normally get hired by strangers who pass by and we get into their cars without knowing where we are heading to. There are many incidents of women who end up being raped," she said.

Ms Dube, who is a widow, said although she is aware of the dangers associated with Covid-19, she had no choice but to risk her life for the sake of her children's survival.



Source - chroncile