On the 28th of March I penned an opinion article expressing my views on the challenges Zimbabwe was most likely going the face in light of a shutdown.
The Zimbabwean President announced that the country was going into a 21 day lockdown commencing Monday 30th of March.
Police in Bulawayo have been rounding up citizens presumed to be loitering in the city with no cause or acceptable reasons.
These police round ups are mostly likely not just taking place in Bulawayo but country-wide. Now what is the end game?
I questioned whether much thought had been put into how the general public particularly the impoverished citizens and those from deprived areas would cope given the little notice given to them to prepare and stock up on basic foodstuffs.
With the current state of affairs in Zimbabwe vis-à-vis the call to stay at home or work from home to slow the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19, provides three takeaways. First, many workers cannot afford to work from home. Second, employers are confused. Third, firmer emergency measures are needed to curb the virus spread.
With reports saying over 80% percent of the workforce is in the informal sector, there was enough reason to worry about locking down the country completely. No work means no pay and no safety net. For the bulk of micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) this means a severe shock to their businesses.
Throw in the food crisis already prevalent in the country where most citizens are trying to get mealie-meal (a staple food) which has been in short supply resulting in long queues across the country in the past months.
Zimbabwe was not ready to impose a total lockdown to limit the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Only a few days into the lockdown the measure is showing that it is disrupting the distribution of basic commodities to rural and densely populated areas. It is only a matter of time before chaos erupts.
One would have thought now would have been the best time to use the army and the police not to beat up citizens. But, to become the COVID-19 rapid-response team whose primary concern would be to deliver logistics into isolation zones, such as in rural and densely populated areas, making sure the public has adequate food supplies during the lockdown.
The problem lays in the availability of the basic commodities in Zimbabwe, hence the citizenry will be forced to come out of quarantine to look for food as whatever little supplies they have stored will run out.
The Police can not just round up people willy-nilly and intimidate the public. They must understand that most people are looking for food and not just pointlessly loitering the streets.
At this time the government authorities must be seriously engaged with how to deliver basic commodities to ensure the quarantined population can have access to their basic needs. This is no time for those in power to shut themselves away and let the police and army loose on an already suffering civilian population.
As I stated in my previous article , imposing a lockdown would be difficult to implement in Zimbabwe, which consists of 10 provinces, despite calls from experts and scientists to do so.
My argument was that the important thing for the public was to implement “social distancing” in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, such as staying at least 2 meters from other people and avoiding crowds to minimize the chances of catching COVID-19.
I still argue that some informal traders should be allowed to work. Farmers who produce fresh vegetables and fruits are losing their produce and that will have a detrimental effect on the already ailing economy.
Efforts must be on educating the public on ways to curb the spread of the virus and maintaining a balance on fictionality of the informal traders. We must keep business alive.
Zimbabwe can not afford a complete lockdown for 21 days. There has to be a little space given for informal traders otherwise we are in for a nightmare.
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