As the COVID-19 national 21-day lockdown entered its third and final week Monday, residents of Bulawayo, have said it has not been easy pulling through since the shutdown came into effect on March 30.
During the shutdown to curb the spread of the deadly pandemic which has infected 14 and claimed three lives in Zimbabwe, citizens remain confined to their homes except those employed by companies and organisations providing essential services.
CITE this week reached out to Bulawayo residents to understand how they have been coping with lockdown restrictions.
“It wasn’t all rosy, considering that basic commodities such as mealie-meal are in short supply,” said Ndodana Moyo of Magwegwe.
“Most of the people in Zimbabwe are in the informal sector and it is not easy for them to remain indoors for such a long time. They need to go out and work for their families.”
He said the government as part of relaxing some of the lockdown measures should consider reopening banks.
“Cash is no longer accessible,” he bemoaned.
“Can’t banks be reopened so people can have access to their cash? Hospitals should also resume normal services and start accepting patients as was the case before the lockdown instead of only focusing on COVID-19 because people are not visiting hospitals for fun.”
He said the government should, however, extend the lockdown if there is a need to do so.
“We are in a situation where we find ourselves in, not voluntarily; whatever, the government is going to come up with, let’s welcome it,” he said.
“However, it will also be important for the government to listen to people’s concerns, such as the scarcity of food. We look forward to the Department of Social Welfare intervening to assist the elderly and orphans. Zimbabweans are supposed to be given some incentives considering that the majority of them are unemployed.”
Takhuleka Ndlovu of Nketa 8, told CITE, she managed to pull through the past two weeks of the lockdown by keeping herself busy reading, doing household chores and praying. “Remaining indoors has been a struggle especially in the first days but I guess I have now adjusted to the system,” she said.
“I think the government ensure that basic commodities are in supply and made available easily to the people.”
She also called for the decentralisation of COVID-19 testing from Harare to provinces to ensure all suspected cases are dealt with timeously.
She added: “I think the lockdown should continue until the safety of people is ensured, taking into consideration that cases are still increasing even during the lockdown.”
Priston Levison, a Mzilikazi resident, said for him remaining indoors during the first week was a challenge considering he is accustomed to running around to make the ends meet.
“There is a need for government to ensure that basic commodities are always available in local shops,” said Levison.
“As it is, it’s either goods are too expensive or not available in local shops yet we are not allowed to get into town.”
He, however, said the lockdown was seemingly yielding intended results.
“If it wasn’t for lockdown we would not be at 14 cases as a country but above that,” he said.
Levison added there was a need to extend the lockdown period considering the increase in of cases in neighbouring countries like South Africa, which are economically linked to Zimbabwe.
Mbekezeli Sibanda, another Bulawayo resident, also said it has not been that easy pulling through the lockdown period at a time when basic commodities are in short supply.
“The police should stop threatening civilians who are going to look for basic commodities in and around town,” he said.
“They need to know that they are there to protect and guard us, not to torture people, because people are starving indoors.”
Sibanda added: “I think the lockdown must be extended until we are sure that we will go back to normal life.”
However, Gwanda resident, Linda Mpofu, who described the past two weeks as “awesome” said her understanding of the virus and how deadly it is made her pull through the past two weeks.
“I can pull through again if there is an extension because I understand what this virus needs to flatten the curve of infections,” she said.
“Staying at home and social distancing and remaining indoors has strengthened the bond between myself and my children. Most of the times when they are on holiday I would be at work, therefore, minimising my chances of really enjoying being a mother to them.”
She, however, challenged the government to be serious in the fight against the pandemic.
“I think the government should be more serious about this virus,” she said.
“They should show more commitment and political will towards fighting this virus. Information should go out there to rural areas and the government should work around providing progressive economic policies and social protection of citizens.”
She stressed the need for the speedy decentralisation of the testing for the disease
“Most mechanisms to fight the virus are at a national level,” she lamented.
“Everything is happening in Harare. Gwanda should be seen implementing these strategies as well.”
A pharmacist in the city said owing to his busy schedule, the past two weeks of the lockdown afforded him some time to rest.
“As part of essential services, l spend the greater part of my time at work. On knocking off (at 3pm), I would go straight home to rest,” he said.
“On a personal note, it’s been helpful in many ways. I managed to rest and have ample time to reflect. Taking time off (work) has always been a challenge and it comes at a cost to the company. This time around, reducing working hours from closing at 6 pm to 3 pm has been a good compromise in this regard.”
The pharmacist, however, said it was important for the government to perfect its lockdown strategy and approach by ensuring the mobility of essential services providers.
“Essential services personnel should be prioritised,” he suggested.
“We can’t all use ZUPCO, public service transport or company cars. I was turned back this past Wednesday at a police roadblock (near Nkulumane Heroes Acre). Police had no time to entertain explanations.”
He said he was of the view that the lockdown should go beyond the initial three weeks.
“In my opinion, the lockdown should be extended,” he said.
“It’s still early days for Zim. We have not assumed total control of the situation (COVID-19) by enforcing all necessary measures. We are playing catch-up with regards to disease surveillance and testing.”
He added: “Social distancing in our communities especially some western areas remains a challenge. To win this war against COVID-19, a universal approach has to be implemented fully and not partially.”
Tshidzanani Malaba, a Bulawayo businessman, said the lockdown period has been a time of reflection on the meaning of life and how human beings need to live a simple, humble and all-embracing life.
“It has been a time of family reunion as well; being indoors has not been a discomfort for me at a personal level,” said Malaba.
“The concern is on the economic impact of the national and global lockdowns, especially to a nation like Zimbabwe which is facing drought, poor harvest, currency and monetary policy confusion and unnecessary political tug of war.”
He said it would be rather a challenge for the government to relax lockdown restrictions without any significant testing of possibly infected people.
“The number of confirmed cases is not convincing to any commoner,” he argued.
“Food distribution must be done house to house in the townships to keep people at home. Water challenges have also made the lockdown ineffective. At the end of 21 days, everyone will be desperate to restock and raise finances just to survive.”
He added: “Realistically everything must be relaxed for people to survive yet this is equally suicidal for a country without any mapping of where the disease is currently domiciled. Further lockdown accompanied by rigorous tests is a must. Otherwise, without that we will die in lockdown and what’s the point anyone will ask.”