Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

The delicate balancing act in Zimbabwe's lockdown: Safety vs Survival

02 May 2020 at 16:29hrs | Views
The Zimbabwe's second phase of the  national lockdown comes to an end on Sunday,  the 3rd of May 2020. Notably, statistics reveal that the scourge of the coronavirus disease still presents a threat to the society. Our biggest question of public interest is whether the President will opt for another extension or will open up the economy and other freedoms.

The  ordinary people have suffered deeply in the  process of observing the lockdown rules. As we all know, Zimbabwe stands at about 98% unemployment and its  citizens largely depend on informal trading as a means of earning a living. Literally speaking, our citizens live on hand to mouth, hardly making enough to feed the families. In essence, life to many Zimbabweans has been, even before the lockdown, a daily struggle for survival, scavenging for food and other resources required  to meet human needs. With the lockdown, people's sources of livelihood have literally been locked out. To compound matters, councils have responded to the government's call for the decongestion of cities by displacing vendors in the CBD. While the need for a clean and orderly city is appreciated, it us essential to also ensure that, at the end of the lockdown the affected people have alternative sites to operate from.

Different commentators  contend that more jobs will be lost and some  businesses may not be able to reopen when the lockdown is finally lifted. This means that, even those few who are gainfully employed whose employment falls outside the essential category of workers may  be jobless and will find it extremely hard to cope. Similarly,  most of the  businesses that were classified as non essential which were ordered to stop  operations face collapse unless government intervenes.

The effects of the COVID-19 measures  are felt across all  sectors of business and society countrywide. As things stand, many  families  have little or no food at all. The business, food and cash situation has become dire and desperate. Prices of basic commodities on the market increase regularly and this sad scenario is further exacerbated by the shortages of some essential  basic commodities.

The Mnangangwa Regime must be pragmatic and  proactive to avert a possible  catastrophe which may lead to a situation where the country becomes ungovernable. Remember,  we are  dealing with a population which normally lives on proceeds from scavenging, vending  and selling anything to sustain  their livelihoods. Further,  it must be noted that a hungry person, sleeping daily on empty stomach knows no law and fears no prison.

President Mnangagwa's intimation yesterday that he  may extend the  lockdown must be  viewed in the context of the suffering masses caused by the economic shut down due to the COVID-19  lockdown measures. We acknowledge the importance of saving lives by stopping the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country. At the same time, people must not die from hunger as food and other cash shortages persist.

Accordingly,  the UMD notes with deep apprehension  President Mnangagwa's expressed commitment to save lives. However, we are vehemently opposed to his statement and the notion that the economy must die and can be resuscitated later. This is  a dangerous and careless Zanu PF government mentality that you can destroy the  economy in the hope that you can easily resuscitate it again. Therefore, the  statement is wrong,  reckless and reflects primitive thinking  with no substance and totally deserves condemnation by all sensible Zimbabweans. History has it that the Zanu PF government under the Presidency of RG Mugabe made chaotic and careless policy decisions in the early 2000s that destroyed the economy which left  hundreds of thousands of our people jobless.  It's also true that to date the successive Zanu PF governments have failed to resuscitate the same economy 20 years after.

Notwithstanding, the real dangers of opening flood gates for possible  COVID-19 infections, the government must balance the health and safety of the nation with the urgent need to get the businesses and people working to sustain their families. We can't continue to copy and paste COVID-19 lockdown  measures from other countries whose circumstances are totally different from ours. Zimbabwe is unique and has peculiar challenges which require  its own COVID-19 response mechanism to contain the virus.  We have seen other countries rolling out a comprehensive social response to cushion the affected businesses and  communities. Nothing tangible  has been implemented to cushion businesses and their  people in order to mitigate possible starvation.

The  UMD takes note of the pronouncements made by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development,  Professor M Ncube  that the government is putting in place a  financial facility to help resuscitate  businesses affected by COVID-19 measures. We call upon the Minister to  come up with measures that are holistic and transparent for the good of all Zimbabweans. However,  our fear is  that the said  financial support  may be hijacked and distributed on partisan and tribal bases. UMD do  appreciate donations made towards the fight against COVID-19 by the  local and international community, now therefore,  calls the government to guard against abuse and unfair distribution of the same.  The  Zanu PF government is known for its murky past which is associated with numerous  financial scandals, corruption  and diversion of resources to finance their political activities. Just yesterday, the  BBC reported that the Mafia in Italy have diverted resources meant to fight the coronavirus pandemic for their use, which confirms our fears that our own local Zanu PF Mafia can do the same. In this regard, we explore the ZACC and police to come hard on the criminal elements found abusing resources meant to fight COVID-19 in our country.

The government must develop home grown strategies in preparation for reopening of  the economy, social services,  schools and colleges within the confines of the World Health Organisation  (WHO) guidelines. UMD strongly encourages the government to urgently develop a comprehensive  pro-people return to normalcy schedule. We can't continue to  deprive citizens  their right to work for the benefit of  their families. Simultaneously, it's incumbent upon the government to provide protective material and  appropriate health care facilities to treat coronavirus patients. In addition to the above provisions,  the government must procure more COVID-19 test kits and make testing centres  easily accessible to everyone. Further,  the government must intensify COVID-19 awareness outreach  programmes in rural areas. Our view is  that Zimbabweans must be  immediately allowed to work under strict COVID-19 rules in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.


Hon Lovemore Moyo
UMD President

Source - Lovemore Moyo
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.