As the People’s party, the MDC Alliance strongly applauds the Zimbabwean people for their discipline and determination to fight adversity with a spirit of never say die.
Indeed, it seems as if adversity brings out the best from Zimbabweans who over the past decade have been able to put down record inflation, droughts, and pandemics such as cholera. Zimbabweans have survived the mutation of the economy from an industrializing one to a largely informal economy, which fostered creativity and refashioning of livelihoods on a continuous basis.
It is also appropriate to appreciate national leadership across the political divide for speaking in resonance in efforts to ward off the marauding Corona virus. We however implore leadership to inject pro activity into their decision making processes. The people have been sitting on edge for too long with the eleventh hour pronouncement of the lockdown extension by 14 days coming to many ordinary people as a surprise. Many had packed their bags ready to trek back to work while others had began preparing to restart their enterprises. The ambushing of the populace causes loss of confidence and suggests that the State is not sure footed on this particular issue.
Is this a scientifically driven decision or it is more and more of groping in the dark for some answer, many will ask? Notwithstanding, we take this opportunity to pay our tribute to the frontline, anti COVID-19 fighters, the health workers, ancillary support staff who are all giving their all in the fight against the pandemic. They are working in the face of danger and under extremely trying circumstances. These need to be thanked beyond applause, they have to get the requisite PPEs, a risk allowance and more other support both material and moral.
The lockdown has however dealt an irreparable damage on the people’s livelihoods. It is important at this moment to find a balance between fighting to save lives and livelihoods so that the further lives are not lost to hunger arising from lost livelihoods. In the immediate term, families have exhausted whatever they had to eat and their revenue streams, particularly those in the informal economy and SMEs have completely dried up and starvation is staring at them uncompromisingly. It is time for a robust safety social net cushion for all working peoples who have lost income to lockdown.
Indeed it is time for the State to deploy the reserves from the surplus generated out of the 2% levy to the noble cause of alleviating hunger and starvation in the country, while also supporting prize reductions of basics services and goods such as electricity, internet tariffs, water liquid and gaseous fuel.
To avoid defeating social distancing and interpersonal disease communication, the civil protection and disaster management mechanisms should strengthen and cooperate with community based structures for monitoring adherence to rules, reporting cases, tracking contacts and indeed delivering basic needs such as mealie meal, water, and other such daily needs. It is possible to deliver these basics at doorsteps of the people . This formula needs collectivity, creativity and oneness of purpose among the publics of Zimbabwe, be it the church, civil society, traditional leaders, elected officials and political actors. There is absolute need ensure that these relief interventions are not tolerated . The State should brook no nonsense around partisanship in the distribution of safety nets.
Local authorities have got the infrastructure and means to deliver such door to door services, cooperating with the relevant service providers. They already read water meters, deliver bills and collect refuse in a fashion suggested here. And we call upon these service provide to work more on cost recovery than the profit motive in this period of major national difficulties. The State can come in too with mechanisms to support service providers so that the viability of business is not affected Health services have become unaffordable and the chronically ill , diabetes patients, the hypertensive and many others are faced with death if the State does not intervene now.
Accordingly, the State should ensure that medicines for chronic conditions are heavily subsidized or provided for free through the normal distribution channels like hospitals clinics and pharmacies. On education, the State should start a consultative process on how lost schooling days can be gained to avoid loss of a whole education year. From a livelihoods drone-view, the State should be thinking about the morning after lockdown with concrete actionable, nation centric plans for the revival of sustainable livelihoods.
Informal traders or vendors need to go back to their stalls, emergency taxis, must go back on the road, backyard poultry farmers need to restock up, cross boarder exporters and importers , have to get their commerce going again. There is need for thinking of some community banking mechanism that will availl small loans to the informal economy actors to enable them to restart their enterprises.
Importantly, the State must engage in a renewed effort, working together with local authorities, the church, civil society and other cooperating partners to go on a massive awareness company. The people may misconstrue the relaxation off lockdown to be synonymous with partialtaming of Corona virus, it is not a fact. The virus is lurching among us to prey on anybody who throws caution to the wind.
Accordingly we call on the people to exercise even more caution, practice social and physical distancing more strictly so that your immediate environment remains locked-down until such time as the virus has been sustainably tamed.
Lives and livelihoods are in a better place if we continue to wash hands frequently with soap under running water, use a sanitizer and wear a face masks whenever it is necessary and keep away from big gatherings. That is the minimum expected of a patriot under these trying times, to do the bit that can save lives of family friends and fellow citizens.
The epoch after lockdown , is a product of involuntary revolution occasioned by the pandemic, but life has to continue now and after lockdown .
Sesel Zvidzai -Secretary for Projects Livelihoods and Entrepreneurship
MDC Alliance Mobile: 00263773495686
Sesel Zvidzai was the Zimbabwe Deputy Minister of Local Government and Urban Development. He is MP for Gweru Urban.