It has been nine days since the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a 21-day lockdown in a bid to limit the spread of Coronavirus in the country. Citizens took heed of the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, albeit lack of a clear implementation strategy or consultation.

It is argued that interventions such as the national lockdown, observing social distancing, closure of public places and ban of public gathering among other measures are contributing to a greater extent to the low numbers of people that have tested positive in Zimbabwe. However, other sections of the community highlight that the low rate of people tested has a huge gearing on the knowledge of our infection rate. By end of day 8 (Monday 6 April 2020) 371 tests had been conducted, 361 people tested negative, ten tested positive and one death has been recorded. Provincially, there was one confirmed case in Matabeleland North, four in Mashonaland East and five in Harare.

NANGO also appreciates the role of civil society, government and the private sector of ensuring that there is wide information dissemination so that people’s awareness about coronavirus, its prevention, symptoms, treatment, testing and where to report suspected cases is raised. NANGO members are playing a key role during this period through mobilising resources such as sanitary pads for young girls during this time of immobility and early closure of shops, offering legal services in a bid to promote access to justice during the lockdown, offering psycho-social support to victims of gender based violence and domestic violence. Humanitarian organisations have continued with their efforts of ending hunger through facilitating food distribution in communities, observing the COVID-19 distribution protocols so that they don’t end up being vehicles of COVID-19 jeopardising the communities and their own lives.

It is encouraging to note that citizens have understood the need to adhere to ways of curbing the spread of coronavirus, cooperation from citizens is evident. However, some of the measures’ pragmatism is constrained by the need to fulfil human needs and wants which enable a modest life such as rural and urban dwellers having to queue for basic goods such as water at communal borehole pumps and taps and shops to buy essential food items. Other concerns being raised, by citizens have to do with right to privacy as police interrogate commuters publicly about where they are going and for those going to access critical medication which needs confidentiality are then highly compromised. The plea of informal traders, on how the lockdown has substantially eroded their source of income which traditionally is based on a hand to mouth model.

It is worrisome that some of our members have received complains of human rights violations perpetuated by some police officers. We noted that police officials have been moving in large numbers without wearing personal protective equipment. This basically means that the police officers are prone to contracting coronavirus just as much as they may spread it. Grouping people together, like what was witnessed in Bulawayo at the city’s Central Police Station during detention of more than 50 people for close to three hours also goes against measures of curbing the spread of coronavirus.

NANGO implores citizens to continue practicing social distancing, avoiding gatherings and practicing good hygiene in view of preventing spreading or contracting COVID-19. NGOs are urged to find ways of offering services and goods that are crucial for improved health service provision, access to water and access to correct information regarding the prevention, symptoms, treatment, testing and where to report suspected cases. We urge the government to restrain police officers, instruct them to desist from excessive use of force and perpetuating human rights violations. The lockdown affects Zimbabweans differently and it is very important for the police to understand that how they treat citizens could have daunting effects in an already frustrating economic, social and political environment.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care should ensure that frontline health care workers are provided with effective personal protective equipment, sanitisers and soap. Health care workers should be compensated accordingly for the efforts that they have put in to keep the spread of Coronavirus under control while also making sure that their families are safe. The ministry should also ensure that families of the affected and infected receive counselling in order to cope with the effects of COVID-19 on mental health. In the long term, working conditions of health workers should be improved in order for the sector to effectively and timely respond to unforeseen disasters and emergencies.

NANGO is the officially recognised coordinating body of NGOs operating in Zimbabwe. It is a non-party political, non-profit making and non-denominational official coordinating body of NGOs in Zimbabwe. It is mandated by its membership to coordinate the activities of NGOs, represent the NGO sector and strengthen the voice of NGOs in Zimbabwe.

For further engagement during this period please don’t hesitate to get in touch with NANGO Executive Director Leonard Mandishara on +263774078026, NANGO Board Chairperson Ronika Mumbire on +263712724911 or NANGO Board Secretary Dr Joachem Hatizivi Nyamande on +263784530915

Source: NANGO