188 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as of 2 October 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 7 858 after 8 new cases were reported. Active cases went down to 1 308. 10 new recoveries were recorded. The total number of recoveries stands at 6 322. The death toll stands at 228.
With the resumption of socio-economic activities across the country, whilst under the unclear patterns of practical enforcement patterns of COVID-19 regulations, we continue to highlight household pressures in our communities and on women specifically. We note the impact of price hikes whilst non-formal economic activities remain severely constrained, the pressures of schools resuming operations with costs of PPE and school fees price hikes on individual pupils, the pressures of reduced food in homes and alarming levels of hunger, the constant shortages of safe potable water, the unmet needs of sexual and reproductive health services and products and increased violence in homes experienced economically, emotionally and physically. It is therefore no great wonder that the suicide rate in Zimbabwe is the 13th highest in the world;
- We continue to highlight therefore the needs for an overhaul of the mental health support architecture in Zimbabwe,
- We call for state-driven support to the establishment and manning of national suicide hotlines and the direct support to non-state actors who provide counseling and therapeutic services.
- We call for the provision of these services in peri-urban and rural communities specifically to combat the unmet need for counseling in communities.
Critical Emerging Issues
Suspension of by-elections
We note that Government, through the Public Health COVID-19 (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment Regulations, 2020, No 4), has suspended the by-elections which were scheduled for 5 December 2020. The amendment provides that no by-elections will be held to fill in a casual vacancy in Parliament or in a local authority, for the duration of the period of the declaration of the COVID-19 as a formidable epidemic disease. In summary, no by-elections will be conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes at a time, particularly where Parliament and local authorities have over 30 vacant seats either due to party recalls or other reasons such as death.
While we may not know exactly when the epidemic declaration may be lifted, what is clear and certain is that COVID-19 is here to stay with us for a considerable time. We further take note of ZEC’s position on 13 September 2020, that it had lifted the suspension of electoral activities, following measures taken by Government to curb the spread of the COVid-19 pandemic.
- Firstly, we query the levels of inconsistencies regarding COVID-19 policies in Zimbabwe
- Secondly, we raise concern over ZEC’s silence regarding this new amendment which for all intents and purposes, reverses ZEC’s position.
- Thirdly, we demand further details from Government on the reasons compelling the amendment. We raise the fundamental question: What has changed between 13 September and 2 October that has prompted Government to apostate on ZEC’s decision?
- Does this recent move not reveal selective application of the law by Government, particularly when one considers that the ruling party is currently conducting its own Primary and District Coordinating Committee elections?
We raise these questions taking into account the fact that vacant seats in Parliament simply allude to lack representation of communities. Representative democracy requires the greatest respect of ensuring that communities are represented especially at a time when freedoms are limited due to national health concerns.
We note the critical work that councillors and members of parliament have been undertaking to raise the critical issues pertinent to communities in decision making processes and platforms which have the power to results in positive change in communities across the country. The loss of such voices without any idea when they will be given an opportunity to be heard once more is not acceptable.
Currently women are bearing the brunt of water shortages in the country and other service delivery issues, yet there is no representative authority in their constituencies to take up these matters. We therefore urge Government and ZEC to take into account these issues we raise here.
Use of public transport
We note the return of commuter omnibuses run by private players. While appreciating that this development will go a long way in easing public transport shortages, we highlight concern over responsiveness to COVID-19 safety protocols and health guidelines.
Our networks report that some of commuter operators plying long-distance routes are failing to maintain public health safety protocols such as physical distancing, and sanitization. This raises concern as such slackening may affect the system’s ability to detect potential COVID-19 cases amongst the commuting public, thus exposing the public to infection.
- We continue to call for the strict implementation of public health safety protocols in the public transport system.
- We urge enforcement agents to ensure that physical distancing is upheld by public transport operators.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe