Losing the Lockdown? Zimbabwe Lockdown – Day 25

Today marks the 25th Day of the Lockdown in Zimbabwe. The question which the majority of Zimbabweans have been asking today is: Is there a lockdown in Zimbabwe? This question is largely driven by the increased movements and traffic in certain parts of the country. It is concerning to note that failure to effectively enforce the lockdown coupled with the failure to effectively support and enforce social distancing and sanitisation processes during the lockdown will result in an exercise in futility as the desired outcome will not be realised.

Applauding efforts by local authorities, private players and other stakeholders in joining forces to disinfect cities and other hotspot areas, particularly in areas such as Chiredzi, Guruve and Mutare.

Commending Government for heeding our calls to take a stand against stigmatisation of COVID-19 patients at the highest levels of government. We urge the maintenance of consistency in this area and the reflection of the approach on all state institutions. Stigma, if unchecked, will ultimately only create deep and lasting damage not only to our social and cultural institutions but will extend to the damage of property and lives. Therefore, Government’s public stance today is noted as progressive step in both in protecting the constitutional rights of patients, and also in the battle against COVID-19.

Alarmed by the increased of COVID-19 positive cases from 25 to 28 cases, which represents 15 cases which are classified as domestic transmission and 13 cases which are non-domestic transmission cases as of the 22nd of April 2020 as stated by the Government updates. Domestic transmission is clearly a strong and growing factor in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe. This context therefore requires comprehensive and effective measures to ensure infections in Zimbabwe are strongly contained and that the easing of lockdown measurers is supported by meaningful and substantive adherence to social distancing and sanitisation protocols.

Critical Emerging Issues

1. Social protection and food aid programs

Noting the report on the registration of over 47 000 households who benefitted from nearly ZWL $8 million towards urban food deficit mitigation;

Noting further the 63 000 households in 23 of the poorest districts of the country, receiving $25,2 million since January 2020, with the support aimed at strengthening household economies, building resilience to deficits, reducing negative coping mechanisms;

Noting that most of these pay-outs have been facilitated utilizing the mobile money payment platform EcoCash;

We remain concerned that the process of the registration regardless of whether it is being undertaken by the various

Ministries, or local authorities, is not administratively publicly well-known or easily accessible to the average Zimbabwean;

Understanding that such a process risks the real term of exclusion of qualifying beneficiaries who are unable to access the system.

  • We recommend that the most vulnerable groups and individuals should enjoy easy access and sign up to the social protection programs without the facing any hurdles.

We further note that an additional 800 000 beneficiaries are being targeted for identification using an automated algorithm that would elaborately track persons who transact relatively low amounts on the EcoCash system.

We remain significantly concerned regarding such a key decision-making process;

  • We therefore urge that any such process must be guided by a clear well known and understood program
  • We further recommend that system of bringing on beneficiaries must be able to also cover and cater for persons who are not transacting on the EcoCash platform.

2. Non-observance and relaxation in enforcement of lockdown

We remain concerned at the implementation of the social distancing and sanitisation particularly in food distribution systems as seen by the weakness of the system in recent distributions in Zaka;

Disturbed by reports indicating non-observance of social distancing, and the lockdown overally, with particular reports of the youth in Norton and other areas, who of late, have been playing “mabhuza” soccer games;

Gravely concerned with traffic movement in certain areas in Harare;

  • We call for stronger implementation of anti-COVID-19 measures in the existing food distribution program.
  • We continue to urge the nation to observe the lockdown guidelines and avoid unnecessary movements.
  • We call for the enforcement of social distancing in the mealie meal queues which are now supervised by the Zimbabwe republic Police.
  • We further call of the issuance of the Police details on duty on such missions to wear masks and ensure that they too also enforce social distancing in the discharge of their duties.

We warn that it would be a self-defeating exercise for the nation to go under lockdown, and yet at the same time, fail to effectively enforce and observe the lockdown measures.

3. Informal Sector

Gravely concerned with Government’s latest move to demolish vending stalls in Harare markets.

We condemn, in the strongest terms, the demolishment of the vending stalls in markets in Harare;

  • We recommend a progressive and consultative approach to the sector that literally holds over 60% of Zimbabwe’s economy.
  • We remind Government that in all provinces across Zimbabwe, informal traders are highly organised and fully capable of meaningful and progressive engagement. Government should therefore play an appropriate role in facilitating and supporting a broad-based engagement practice.
  • We call upon Government, to resist the temptation, to set a standard, of the re-organisation of the informal trading spaces, which is driven and facilitated by a non-consultative and non-response approach.

4. Equality gaps in Education

Appreciating efforts by stakeholders and Government to ensure that school children do not lag behind in terms of school, by optimizing online and virtual learning spaces;

Aware of the lived realities of the majority of school children and students in remote rural areas and children with disabilities who lack access to the information technology and communications equipment, internet and in certain cases may not even be computer literate, as reported by our networks;

Noting the inequalities perpetuated by an otherwise good intention; resultantly in violation of section 56 of Constitution of Zimbabwe, on equality and non-discrimination of persons on grounds of class, economic and social class;

  • We draw to the attention of stakeholders and Government, the widening of equality gaps in terms of access to education.
  • We therefore reiterate our call for special consideration for the facilitation of education packs to support such vulnerable communities.

Outstanding Issues

1. Child Rights Crisis

As noted previously that the pandemic has posed threats to the safety of children in our communities and has in various ways, impacted negatively on the lives of all children;

We therefore reinforce our call upon Government and to actively support mechanisms to provide support to household through the deployment of Social Welfare officers to conduct the critical inspections at homes that are reported to be at risk and to respond to such risks by:

  • Ensuring the helplines for children remain fully functional.
  • Prioritising funding shelters and other places of safety for survivors.
  • Expanding critical services for children and ensuring accessibility.
  • Ensuring community child protection committees are supported to play their roles as community care workers.

2. Support to Persons with Disabilities

Remaining concerned with the Government’s demonstrated complacency and lack of proactiveness in supporting persons with disabilities;

  • We continue to urge Government to take steps and implement measures for supporting persons with disabilities, in responding to the pandemic and also to ensure that special mechanisms are adopted, to lessen their risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • We further recommend the designation of Interpreters as essential service, so as to facilitate for the provision for assistance of persons with disabilities at screening points.

3. Protection of the Prison Populations

Noting that convicted persons and those on remand are amongst the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 contagion; 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;

Aware that most of our detention facilities may not be capacitated enough and that social distancing rules may be difficult to enforce.

  • We therefore urge Government, to urgently implement a comprehensive crisis plan to cater for the rights, needs and safety of detainees in the COVID-19 era.
  • We urge Government to paying particular attention to ensuring that the disease does not enter the prison population from officers and administrators, nor does it enter the prison population, at point of arrest, for the detainee population
  • We urge specific measures to protect vulnerable detainees such as juveniles, pregnant women, and women prisoners with infants in prison, persons with disabilities and those with underlying health conditions.

This SITREP is develop by and through the collective network of organisational and individual members of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe who are engaged at community levels to national levels in the COVID19 Zimbabwe response

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)

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