191 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as at 6 October 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 7915 after 17 new cases were reported. 15 cases are local transmission cases and 2 cases are recorded from returnees. Active cases remain at 1 246. 65 new recoveries were recorded. The total number of recoveries stands at 6 440. The death toll now stands at 229 after 1 death was recorded.
Since the reopening of borders on the 1st of October, today marks the first day we have imported cases recorded. We urge Government to actively address costs of testing to ensure the highest levels of vigilance whilst the economy reopens. We call for practical measures to ensure travellers who are transitioning through Zimbabwe are not carriers of the disease. Whilst we note the requirements of COVID-19 tests are in effect we continue to note gaps in terms of persons who are not able to access tests in their respective provinces or due to delays at the borders where their certificates exceed the number of hours required. Accordingly, we call for the provision of testing facilities at land borders and an active reduction in testing fees.
Access to documentation
While we appreciate the resumption of operations of the Registrar’s office, particularly in the issuing of birth certificates, we are distressed to learn of the new measures that the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage has put in place to ensure safe operations. The Minister indicated that people wishing to obtain birth certificates will have to call the Central Registry first, get vetted online and are given numbers and dates on which they can visit the Central Registry. We raise concerns that such measures are discriminatory and exclusionary. Firstly, the Central Registry Offices are not easily accessible to everyone due to long distances which may require to be travelled.
Secondly, most individuals to do not have resources and capacity to call the Central Registry in order to “book an appointment.” We have already noted how expensive communication and data has become in Zimbabwe. We raise these concerns particularly as we are aware that mothers of newly born babies will be hardest hit by such discriminatory measures, particularly those in the rural areas and other vulnerable groups. In essence:
- We, therefore, call to order the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, to remind them of section 81 of the Constitution, which provides that every child has the right to the prompt provision of a birth certificate.
- We recommend a rapid decentralization of Central Registry services, through establishing Mobile Birth Certificate-issuing clinics in communities to ensure easy access by all citizens. This will also go a long way in decongesting the Central Registry and dealing with backlogs.
Suspension of democracy
Our monitoring, throughout various platforms, reveals that citizens are struggling to come to terms with the decision by the Ministry of Health and Child Care to indefinitely suspend all electoral activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes at time when 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 continue to draw reference to 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. It is common cause that vacant seats in Parliament and local authority simply results in lack of representation of communities on pertinent issues such as service delivery and policy implementation.
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 continue to query the 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.
- We reinforce our demand for further details from Government on the reasons compelling the amendment.
Hunger and delays in implementing social protection measures
We continue to highlight the WFP report that indicates that 75% of Zimbabwe Urban Workers have been rendered jobless by the COVID-19 pandemic related restrictions.
We highlight the scourge of exacerbated social vulnerabilities related to such a grave circumstance and the need for a widespread, aggressive, rebuilding agenda to ensure that lives are saved in the pursuit of non-consultative economic restructuring that has a high risk of creating jobless, rootless growth.
Whilst we continue to note that Government is yet to avail funds for the COVID-19 relief pay-out, we continue to remain dismayed by the lack of urgency by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to provide real, tangible social safety-nets. 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 query policy measures put in place by Government to ensure that citizens access basic commodities in the time of COVID-19.
- We further call the State to order, particularly on its duty to ensure that citizens enjoy the progressive realisation of their fundamental rights to food and water.
- 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 recommend an increase in the COVID-19 relief pay-outs and an expedited implementation of social protection programs for all vulnerable households.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe