Extended lockdown: more weeks of suffering for the poor

File photo: vendor selling her wares in Harare ( photo credit Human Rights Watch

By George Honzeri

The extension of the lockdown by a further 2 weeks, while vital in the containment of the pandemic, has come as an insult to injury for about 80% of Zimbabweans who survive on the informal economy.

The country has so far recorded 32 646 covid cases, 1 160 deaths due to COVID 19 as well as 24 419 recoveries from the disease.

Announcing the extension, Acting President Constantino Chiwenga highlighted that the president was aware of people’s hardships.

With no fall-back plan for its citizens, the government is forced to watch people exposing themselves to the risk of the pandemic as they struggle to eke a living.  For the urban poor, exposure to COVID 19 while playing cat mouse with police, who are out to enforce lockdown regulations, has become the order of the day.

‘I have to face the risk of contracting the virus when I come to sell roasted maize here due to the increase in the numbers of people especially towards sunset.’ said Tichaona, a vendor at the popular Mapuranga junction in Glen Norah.

These terminuses have now grown to be super spreaders

Mabhero, roasted maize, fresh maize, fresh beef, friend chicken offals, boiled maize, money changing , touting and a variety of illegal combis that are poorly ventilated dominate proceedings at terminuses such as Mapuranga, Chigovanyika, Mbudzi round about, White house to mention a few.

Most people allege the continuous decline in people’s finances as the major cause.

The government has tried to maintain order in CBDs of major cities but in the residential areas especially where the poor people live, sanity still has to prevail.

Masking up and sanitisation seems to be elusive for the majority in the high density suburbs.

People are now mainly interested in making an extra dollar but at the same time risking their lives and it all boils down to poverty.

The government has not done enough to assist the underprivileged during this pandemic period as compared to other counties.

Countries such as South Africa pays a monthly grant of R350 to its residents that helps to alleviate covid lockdown hardships, Kenya used an existing cash transfer programme,Inua Jammi,to boost payments to more than one million vulnerable people ,Nigeria induced US$1,4 billion stimulus package, Uganda boosted lending capacity of the development bank according to the IMF.

In 2019 the government, as if living in a parallel universe announced a ZW$18 billion ($720m at the time) economic recovery package targeting formally constituted businesses resulting in the adoption of monetary and macro-financial measures and overnight return to multi currencies.

The use of the multi currencies is a menace as the majority of businesses in the informal sector do not conform to the rates of $US against the ZW$ determined by the auction system.

This leaves the majority in abject poverty.

An economic analyst, Mr Collin Jonas concurred that in the interest of public health, the government had done a good move by extending the lockdown but bemoaned the fact that the extension was mostly going to affect the poor and those in the informal sector and lockdowns without assistance or compensation will be a major climb down by most governments.

African governments mostly need to establish systems that cater mostly for the underprivileged as the corona virus pandemic is proving to be around for some time with adaptation and mitigatory measures needed most.

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