Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Manicaland Bureau
The Mutare complex has reopened for business after it was briefly closed at the weekend for disinfection after more than 36 employees tested positive to Covid-19.
Hundreds of Government workers are stationed at the complex, which houses all, but a few departments.
As of Monday, all employees who tested positive, those that had not been tested and those waiting for their results were in self-isolation at home or at various isolation centres in the city. With most offices closed, all face-to-face interface has since been banned and only urgent matters will be attended to virtually.
Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution and also Covid-19 provincial taskforce chairperson Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba said only a few offices at the complex had reopened after the disinfection and deep cleaning of the premises.
“All meetings are now being done virtually and over the telephone as we want to avoid meeting as much as possible. Those working from the office feed those who are at home with necessary information. Only important documents that need to be signed can be sent via mail, but we are exercising extreme caution to ensure we do not contaminate others. All caution is being exercised,” she said.
By Tuesday, Manicaland had recorded 199 positive cases and six deaths, making it the province with the third highest number of deaths in the country.
The province is now grappling with local transmissions, but has also recorded a number of positive cases from returnees from Mozambique, who have been coming through Forbes Border Post. Mutare is the gateway to the seaport of Beira and has had to contend with high volumes of traffic at the border post, even during the lockdown period.
Currently, only returning residents and commercial cargo trucks are using the entry point, but there have been concerns of smuggling syndicates that are bringing in second hand clothes, groceries, fuel and other contraband through the port and other illegal crossing points.
The majority of second hand clothes usually find its way into Sakubva, one of the most densely populated suburbs before being redirected to other suburbs where the sellers have come up with new marketing techniques to bring the goods to the buyer’s doorstep.
With access to the second hand clothes made easier, more people have become exposed to the deadly disease.
Police in the past few weeks busted two smuggling rings involving fuel and second hand clothes. The syndicates reportedly involved employees from various departments manning the border, including the immigration, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), private security, police border control and criminal intelligence units.
Zimbabwe Republic Police Officer Commanding Manicaland, Commissioner Dr Wiklef Makamache last week admitted that smuggling was rampant at the borders and said police was putting in place new measures to fight corruption among law enforcement agents and curb smuggling activities, even when they involved goods that passed through illegal crossing points. Dr Gwaradzimba also raised concern over the smuggling activities, which she said were making Manicaland a potential hazard as the culprits were evading quarantine by utilising many points along the 700km borderline with Mozambique. “We have some illegal entries being used in Nyanga, Chimanimani and Chipinge in the majority of cases. There are many arrests that are being made of people who continue to cross the border illegally for the purposes of bringing in goods. Our borders should be tightened and officialised to contain the spread of the disease because there are cases that have tested positive from people coming from neighbouring Mozambique,” she said.
She said security forces were on high alert and were apprehending those using illegal entry points. “Those that are caught will not be spared because if we are not careful this disease will wipe out Manicaland and indeed the whole country. The challenge we now have is that we have to deal with local transmissions and this makes it difficult to trace their source,” said Dr Gwaradzimba.
She said disinfection of all Government offices and at local companies would be done regularly in line with Government and WHO regulations on preventing Covid-19.