Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 72 – WCOZ Covid-19 Situation Report

72 days into the lockdown, the Ministry of Health and Childcare reported that as at the 9th of June 2020, the number of Covid-19 positive cases had increased to 314 cases.

Commending the latest decision by Government to postpone school’s re-opening from 29 June 2020 to 28 July 2020. We emphasize that Government should utilise this window period to extensively consult with stakeholders in the education sector in order to establish feasible and effective measures for containment of the pandemic, in preparation of the re-opening in July.

As the Covid-19 cases continue to rise, and noting growing reports of returnees absconding quarantine, we commend Government for putting in place measures to address this challenge, which measures include the requirement for all returnees entering quarantine to hand over their travel documents, only to collect upon the end of the quarantine. However, we urge against an overt securitisation approach of managing quarantine and isolation centres. We continue to urge Government to address the underlying conditions in the centres which include desperate and limited access to food, water and sanitisation, appropriate sleeping facilities.

We remind Government that we are not calling for the provision of luxuries but instead are calling for the provision of basic supportive conditions to maintain the health and wellbeing of persons under quarantine facilities. We note with concern, the consistencies, in the reports of persons exiting the centres on delay in receiving testing especially on the first day as they enter the contained population. We call for an urgent redress to this matter.

We continue to bring to the fore, discussion on the Parliament’s scheduled public hearings during Covid-19 lockdown. We emphasize that the current situation presented by Covid-19 lockdown, limitations on gatherings and travel, do not make the environment democratically conducive for public hearings. We urge Parliament of Zimbabwe to suspend the program.

Critical Emerging Issues

  1. Lockdown for informal workers only?

The recurring question that has been asked of late throughout our networks is: What is it about the informal sector that makes it the only sector targeted by the Covid-19 operational restrictions? The prevailing socio-economic conditions of the Zimbabwean economy do not indicate any measures to structurally change the economy and provide decent job for those being shut out of their livelihoods.

These questions have been driven by activities around the country which seem to suggest that the Nation has moved out of lockdown. For instance, the move by Government to resume operations in the public sector, and partially lift the ban on sporting activities. Not to be outdone, the Parliament of Zimbabwe has also announced that it will disregard intercity travel ban and proceed with nationwide Public Hearings. If the lockdown has been suspended, Government should simply proclaim so. These selective reprieves, if anything would question the authenticity of the continued lockdown by Government. One would be forgiven for thinking that the lockdown extension is now only targeted at punishing the informal sector, as they seem to be the ones under siege in terms of Level 2 extension. This state of affairs is disturbing so much, if we consider that the majority of persons affected by this, are women. Statistics show that women constitute about 60% of the informal sector in Zimbabwe, thus showing the magnitude at which, they have been impoverished by the discriminative level 2 measures;

  • We continue to urge re-visitation of the Level 2 strategy and what it is meant to achieve in order to ensure that it does not aggravate the already existing inequality gaps.
  • We urge Government to take into account specific needs of the populations as it develops strategic measures to curb spread of the disease.

2. Price hikes and hunger

Remaining concerned with reports indicating price hikes for basic commodities, particularly our networks in Shurugwi, Mrewa, Chipinge, Kariba report that 2kg sugar is averagely pegged at ZWL$170, and 2litres cooking oil at ZWL$220.

This scenario must be understood against the background that Government through its social protection programs, intends to give out ZWL$300 in mobile money, per household, as a means to alleviate economic shocks on vulnerable households.

Furthermore, it should be understood that the situation of majority of the vulnerable households has worsened under Covid-19, due to the lockdown and loss of income. This means that such households are plainly and wholly relying upon the Government for their very survival.

Whilst we appreciate the economic constraints faced by the Government;

  • We call for appropriate and equitable prioritisation of the state resources to address the hunger crises faced by the country.
  • We urge for the report on the provision of food to those in urban communities.
  • We call for an update on the UN Global Call to address food insecurity in Zimbabwe.
  • We call for an update on the provision of subsidised mealie meal in the country.
  • We therefore ask the State to be real and get in touch with the food insecurity challenges that women are facing at community level and to implement comprehensive feasible strategies to alleviate economic shocks presented by Covid-19.

3. Public Transport Overcrowding and Inter Provincial Travel

We note with grave concern the increased numbers of persons being taken into ZUPCO buses, in some instances the buses are actually full. We raise with concern bus loading practices in Kuwadzana, Masvingo, Marondera as loading points which are exceeding the recommended on public transport;

  • We call upon Government in lieu of being able to provide public transport readily and accessibly to ensure the rolling out of public transport providers who are registered and are able to provide public transport in limited number, through a transparent and accountable system that complies with the required hygiene and sanitation protocols.
  • We note increasing movement of both licenced Kombi’s and unlicensed “mshika mhsika” moving in inter provincial road to destinations at night such as Buhera, Kariba, Karoi, Masvingo;
  • We call upon the Government to ensure there is equitable enforcement f lockdown regardless of the time of day.
  • We call for the clarification of the essential services and excluded purposes of travel during the lockdown. We remind government that inequitable enforcement creates an environment where citizens are unable to support the lockdown.

Outstanding issue

Report on the vulnerable namely, detainees and prisons populations

  • We continue to note that we are yet to receive a publicized report on the protection of vulnerable populations such as refugee camps and prison population;

Further aware that on a daily basis there are new entrants who are sent to remand prison from the outside world, where they may have been exposed to the virus and remain asymptomatic;

  • We call for Parliament of Zimbabwe to undertake oversight visits to these vulnerable communities urgently.

Aware that most of our detention facilities and refugee camps may not be capacitated enough and that social distancing rules may be difficult to enforce. Further aware that Beitbridge and Plumtree Prisons already recorded Covid-19 cases;

  • We buttress our calls upon Government to urgently publicize and implement a comprehensive crisis plan to cater for the rights, needs and safety of detainees in the Covid-19 era.
  • We urge for particular attention to vulnerable detainees such as juveniles, pregnant women, persons with disabilities and those with underlying health conditions.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)