By Irvin Takavada
The past year was newsy as we battled with the Covid-19 virus, the government also heightened its crackdown on dissent as noticed by the number of abductions, arrests, and assaults of civic , opposition, labour union, students leaders and even journalists were not spared but can 2021 be different?
Signs of Despair as government announces another lockdown
While it is agreeable that a lockdown is necessary to contain the Covid-19 virus it is the way it is being instituted by the Zanu PF government that has led people to castigate that it is insensitive as it is targeting the downtrodden. The decision to ban cross border trade and the informal sector while opening sectors like mining and agriculture which the elites have interests smacks of segregation.
It is no longer a secret that Zimbabwe’s economy is now largely informal hence we have seen the minister of finance in his 2021 budget presentation is targeting to ‘milk’ the sector. However,the decision to ban the informal sector while at the same time the government wants revenue from it does not sound well. The government should have widely consulted especially given its track record of failing to provide social grants during the previous shutdowns. This was echoed by MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa in tweets when he pointed that ‘they forget that 80 % of our economy is informal which means a lockdown without complimentary support system will lose traction,faced with starvation people will be forced to breach lockdown rules,posing more risk to themselves and others’.
Chaos on the onset of the lockdown
Tuesday 5 January was set aside as the first date of the national lockdown and as usual the President Emmerson Mnangagwa was caught napping. There was confusion on which workers constitutes the essential services.The police took time to outline those who are enlisted in the essential services hence citizens had to endure long winding queues on police roadblocks.Such dithering at a time when most industries want to recover from festive season shows a government that lacks proper planning.
Soon after Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga made those announcement on the lockdown ,the police should have forthwith come up with the list for the essential services which are exempted from this lockdown rather than subjecting citizens to harassment by law enforcement agencies. Imagine some commuters had to be vetted by Zupco drivers and conductors who could willy-nilly turn away genuine essential service workers at the pretext that they had old letters of exemption when the government itself had not made an announcement that new letters of exemption were now being required.
The Fantan New Year’s Eve Gig- A Case of Double Standards
I would not like to condone the new year’s eve gig that was organised by popular Zimdancehall producer Fantan and one promoter Dama as a potential Covid-19 super-spreader as the government spokesperson Mr Nick Mangwana put it but that some events like the recent congress by the MDC-T which was risky considering the flagrant disregard of the Covid-19 regulations. It was not surprising to see losing candidate Dr Thokozani Khuphe contracting the deadly virus. Why did the police fail to stamp authority there to ensure people adhered to the WHO guidelines boggles the mind.Social media is awash with pictures of police officers without face masks manning a crowd of 200 teenagers who were nabbed after hosting a party in Westgate in contravention of the Covid-19 regulations.This is utter reckless by the police officers to think they are immune to the virus at a time the country is battling another wave of Coronavirus infections.
Mayhem at the Beitbridge Border Post
So the rushed lockdown by the government has quadrupled the congestion that had characterised Beitbridge during the festive season. Scenes from the border post are disheartening as thousands of citizens are now restive and disregarding social distance some are saying they have been stuck at the border from Sunday. The government is sleeping on duty we are going to see an escalation of infections as both exiting and returning citizens are being exposed to such shambolic planning by the Zanu PF government.
The year 2021 has really started on a bad note and government’s bungling on the instituting of the lockdown can be a sign that the year can also witness the same maladministration of yester-year .Its not yet Uhuru!