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Of pre-lockdown fears and Govt interventions

03 Apr, 2020 - 00:04 0 Views

The Herald

Nobleman Runyanga Correspondent

On the day that Zimbabwe’s 21-day Covid-19 lockdown commenced, Associated Press (AP) published a story penned by its local correspondent, Farai Mutsaka, which was entitled “In Zimbabwe, you win coronavirus or you win starvation”.

The story painted a grim picture of Zimbabwe ahead of the lockdown.

It created the false impression of Zimbabweans as being on their own as Government could not walk with them through the lockdown.

The situation on the ground shows that nothing is further from the truth, as Government has rolled out a number of initiatives to cushion its citizens through this difficult time.

The article’s headline gave the impression that the lockdown came against the backcloth of ordinary Zimbabweans going through severe economic challenges.

It sought to tell the world that the lockdown was an additional hurdle which left Zimbabweans between a rock and a hard place.

The story’s headline was borrowed from a quotation from a pessimistic AP respondent, Tinashe Moyo, who said: “It’s like we are playing cards. Its either you win coronavirus or you win starvation.”

Other people who were interviewed by Mutsaka gave negative views that it was better to die of coronavirus looking for money than to stay at home as required under the lockdown.

Put differently, the respondents foretold extensive disobedience purportedly driven by hunger.

It is, however, gratifying to note that when the lockdown kicked in, most Zimbabweans heeded President Mnangagwa’s directive to stay at home.

Even those errant citizens who chose to disobey the directive without convincing reasons were gently shepherded back to their homes, putting to rest the speculation that people would defy Government.

Private media houses such as some newspaper stables that usually play the role of the opposition and other anti-Government elements’ who are negativity megaphones criers had no choice except to publish the stories and images of the success of the first lockdown day. 

Contrary to the speculation by Zimbabwe’s haters that people would die of hunger, Government set in motion a number of interventions and measures to assist people through the difficult but very necessary three-week lockdown period.

Sitting top of the list of these measures is the $600 million kitty which Government has set aside to cover one million vulnerable households in cash pay outs.

The households will be identified by the Department of Social Welfare.

The selection of the beneficiaries will be blind to political affiliation to ensure fair distribution and transparency.

This is in addition to the $500 million which Government has already sunk into the national coronavirus fight effort under various interventions that include paying out $50 million to the Premier Service Medical Society (PSMAS) to prepare it to cater for the health needs of civil servants during the pandemic.

Retail shops and other essential services such as pharmacies were exempted from the lockdown.

This decision was meant to avoid panic buying as well as to offer citizens the convenience of shopping and replenishing their stocks during the lockdown.

Nelson Chamisa was this week quoted by the media appealing to Government to provide social safety nets by way of food aid to cater for the poor and vulnerable during the lockdown.

The import of Chamisa’s message was to depict to the people of Zimbabwe Government as uncaring.

It was as if any challenges that the people of Zimbabwe are going through is some form of punishment for some unstated transgression.

Government’s interventions so far and President Mnangagwa’s explanation on the first day of the lockdown that it was not a punishment, but a necessary measure to save lives amply clarifies the issue.

It demonstrates how seriously the Government takes its mandate and duty to serve the people.

This is in sharp contrast to the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, who continues to insist that a lockdown is not necessary in his country despite having confirmed cases of 4 256 people infected with Covid-19.

Questions have been raised over Zimbabwe’s continued ability to consistently intervene financially.

Admittedly, Government has a lot on its lap in terms of financial obligations against a background of meagre financial resources, a situation engendered by the sanctions, but it is fully alive to the need to prioritise the people’s health and welfare needs.

This is the reason why going forward, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development will channel the 2 percent intermediated money transfer tax (IMTT) towards Government’s national coronavirus fighting effort. The funds were hitherto ring-fenced for social protection and capital development projects.

Apart from funding through Treasury, Government is also receiving a number of donations from progressive citizens who know that they do not have to wait for everything from Government.

While other people, especially in the opposition circles were rubbing their hands in glee expecting Government to fail in its handling of the pandemic, others felt duty-bound to chip in with their own resources for the sake of the nation.

Such citizens have so far donated an assortment of items of varying quantities. These include sanitisers, a ventilator, masks and many other items.

Nothing is as gratifying as seeing Government working together with citizens to fight a major national challenge.

Other people have also begun to question the ability of the Social Welfare Department in handling the selection of the payouts beneficiaries and effecting the payments transparently.

They fell short of accusing the Department of corruption even before the exercise begun. Government has systems in place to allay such fears.

The Auditor General’s Office audits the finances of Government ministries and departments.

There is no way that any anomalies in the manner the Social Welfare Department handles the scheme can slip through the Auditor General’s fine net.

In the event that any citizen is not satisfied they can always bring in private auditors at their own cost.

Despite meagre resources, Government has so far acquitted itself well in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The people have also responded very well by heeding Government’s lockdown call.

The nation is off to a great start in the anti-coronavirus fight and, if the momentum is maintained, the Zimbabweans will triumph over the pandemic.

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