140 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 16 August 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 5 261 confirmed cases after 85 new cases tested positive, of which 81 of these are local transmission cases. The death toll stands at 132 after 2 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours.
We note that today marks the eve of the 40th SADC Heads of State and Government Meeting. We note Mozambique as the in-coming Chairperson of the Council of Ministers. We note accordingly that the Council of Minister will be tabling the draft Agenda of the Summit to the Heads of States for their deliberations. Noting that the draft Agenda of Summit includes the measures to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic nationally and regionally. We fully recognise the efforts to coordinate and consider the implications of COVID-19 responses to supply chains, the movement of goods and persons and in particular the people who drive trade, citizens.
We note that Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the East African Community (EAC) on 29th July, 2020 adopted harmonised Tripartite Guidelines on Trade and Transport Facilitation Guidelines for Safe, Efficient and Cost-Effective Movement of Goods and Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic which are supported by Standard Operating Procedures.
We recognise that the guidelines are aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 whilst facilitating trade and transport of goods and services across the three regional economic blocs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We welcome the guidelines as they address the issues of overlapping membership, the diverse nature and status of the pandemic across the regional blocs, the challenges brought about by national pandemic responses viz a viz the regional context, the practical realities of movement of goods, services and people between the three regions and their implications on communities.
- Whilst we acknowledge the efforts and measures undertaken by Zimbabwe in regards to balancing the spread of the COVID-19 across its borders and maintain movement of goods and services accordingly,
- However, we remain concerned regarding the operational and administrative measures undertaken by Zimbabwe and the implications of communities and women particularly. Furthermore, we raise our concern at the weaknesses in the actions undertaken by Zimbabwe as member state, in regards to practical measures and ports of entry particularly guidelines to the public pertaining to COVID-19 regulations especially that persons accessing the Tax Authority (ZIMRA) facilities and institutions must produce COVID-19 free certificates.
We are deeply concerned that this requites does not take into consideration the real time implications of COVID-19 testing. These guidelines ignore the reality that most traders and are not able to afford tests whose costs are as high as USD65. The guidelines do not address the practicalities that despite testing negative a persons can contract COVID-19 in the duration of the two weeks that such tests are allegedly valid and therefore do not provide a real barrier to stoppage of the spread of the disease especially considering the mass movement and mass numbers of persons who engage in trade and trade facilitation processes.
The regulation effectively undermine the efforts to slowly reintroduce the controlled movement of traders who ply their trade in the informal sector and thus undermine the protection of livelihoods.
- The members state should be urged to retrofit and shift the physical infrastructure to their exiting procedures to reduce the spread of the disease
The above standalone recommendation is critical to address the exiting gaps – not all process can indeed go online and utilise the extensive guidelines on technology and the physical guidelines remain crucial.
- We call upon SADC to take measures to protect the livelihoods of women and informal sector incomes directly within these guideline.
- We continue to reiterate to SADC the dire context of the women and girls in Zimbabwe due the disproportionate negative impact of the pandemic on women and girls.
We further draw the attention of the Council of Ministers and Summit to the dire context of women and girls which is being driven deeper under the guise of the COVID-19 pandemic and call upon the Summit to ensure that SADC continues to plays its role in Zimbabwe by being a guarantor of the destiny of member states by supporting the direct engagement of Zimbabwe and the citizens of Zimbabwe on the Zimbabwe they want to provide a Zimbabwean solution to the Zimbabwe problems.
Critical Emerging Issues
Inadequate Change in Behaviour at Religious Gatherings
Today marked the 8th Sunday, since the restriction on church gatherings was lifted. Reports from our grassroots champions and networks, in Kwekwe, Mutasa and Chivi areas, indicate that a huge number of congregants physically attended to their respective churches of worship.
We draw particular attention to the conduct of communal actions such as Choirs and performance groups who are continuing to undertake their activities without respective social distancing and wearing of masks. Due regard to the spread of the virus during such activities is critical.
Efforts to support the progressive congregants who are adhere to mandatory wearing of face masks, reports continue to reveal lack of compliance with safety protocols such as physical distancing and use of sanitizers.
The lack of shift in behaviour in social settings is deeply worrying, considering the rise in COVID-19 cases, especially community transmissions.
- We continue to urge church leaders to safeguard their congregants by ensuring strict compliance with the containment laws and public health guidelines.
Child Rights and Child Safety
Noting that the pandemic, has in various ways, impacted negatively on the lives of all children;
Recalling the report issued earlier this year, in March by the United Nations raising alarm over the lack of protection mechanisms and early warning systems for children during COVID-19.
- We continue to raise concern over the reported increase in adolescent pregnancies.
- We buttress our call upon Government and to actively support mechanisms to provide support to households through the deployment of Social Welfare officers to conduct critical inspections at homes that are reported to be at risk and to respond to such risks by:
- Ensuring that 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.
Delay in implementing social protection measures
The delays in implementing social protection measures continue to hit hard on vulnerable households. It is gravely disappointing to note the lack urgency by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, while on the other hand, the cost of living continues to soar high due to inflation. This has raised a general sense of discontent and disgruntlement by the communities over the delays in the implementation of social protection measures by Government.
- We therefore call upon the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to expedite the implementation of social protection programs to alleviate economic shocks upon vulnerable households.
- We further call the State to order, particularly on its duty to ensure that citizens enjoy the progressive realisation of their right to food and water.
- We recommend that Government invests in key services for children, in health and nutrition, education and protection against violence are effective and direct means to reduce the occurrence of child labour in our communities.
- We further recommend a deliberate active process to identify and provide support vulnerable families and children.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe