Rural communities in a quandary over new S.I.

Communities in rural Matabeleland have found themselves in a dilemma after the promulgation of S.I. 99 of 2020 which provides for mandatory wearing of masks outside the home.

The provision, which is set to prevent the community spread of Covid-19 during level 2 of the national lockdown has been met with mixed reactions.

Habakkuk Trust Community Advocacy Action Teams from various parts of Matabeleland reported that the provision of the wearing of masks came as a surprise to most villagers due to limited access to information. Villagers at Maphisa Growth point in Matobo ward 19 got the shock of their lives after they were denied entry into local shops for not wearing masks.

A significant population of rural Matabeleland is still facing challenges with access to mobile networks, radio and television signals. This has contributed immensely to skewed information on government pronouncements and the lack of it thereof.

As of yesterday late afternoon, communities in Nkayi-Nesigwe Area and Bambadzi in Bulilima had not received information on the provisions of S.I 99 of 2020. While in some parts of Insiza and Tsholotsho Districts, there were reports of conflicting messages on the use of masks induced by social media platforms. Messages on social media platforms discouraged villagers from making home-made masks citing that they cannot prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus. This is contrary to President Mnangagwa’ s announcement that all people must wear face masks of any type, even home-made cloth ones, in all public spaces and when they are outside of their homes.

The banning of large gatherings has affected ward meetings which are a key local governance mechanism of conveying information including government pronouncements.

While appreciating the Government’s stance on the wearing homemade masks, villagers have bemoaned the unavailability of materials and sewing equipment to make them.

In Bulawayo CBD there was relative compliance to the legal statute as most people were seen moving about wearing masks. In western areas; it was no masks and no physical distancing in most places. Residents in Mpopoma were seen sharing masks in order to gain entry into shops, an act of desperation that carries a latency to fuel community spread. A mask costs between USD1 and USD2 which is way beyond the reach of ordinary Zimbabweans who are struggling to afford a decent meal.

Source: Habakkuk Trust

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