The Matabeleland Forum, a grouping of civil society organisations, has expressed grave concern at the deepening socio-economic and political crisis in the country characterised by hyperinflation, household poverty and suppression of the right to protest and freedom of speech in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
As a result, this has left citizens in a difficult position with a majority feeling the effects of the government`s failure to address the obtaining challenges.
“We are concerned at how the government remains silent on workable mechanisms to support the vulnerable populations in the country. We are also appalled by the level of corruption within the central and local government which has led to erosion of the social safety nets among the most vulnerable populations,” said Matabeleland Forum Spokesperson, Reverend Useni Sibanda.
Rev. Sibanda noted that corruption has destroyed the country’s health sector, evidenced by incessant strikes by medical professionals due to poor working conditions.
“Corruption is a disabler of service delivery evidenced by the loss of life in hospitals, through road carnage and most recently 13 lives lost in Luveve, Bulawayo owing to unexplained water contamination believed to be linked to old water and sewer systems long overdue for replacement,” he said.
Matabeleland Forum noted vendors, informal traders and those formally employed were in ‘desperate’ need of food aid and medical assistance, as their incomes were eroded by inflation.
“The skyrocketing cost of basic commodities, against a shrinking value of the Zimbabwe dollar and, cash shortages at banks has worsened the minimum living standard for ordinary citizens,” said Rev. Sibanda.
The grouping said the state’s lack of responsiveness to provide and make sure there was essential equipment and health care for hospitals in Bulawayo and Matabeleland was worrying.
“The equipment includes PPE, habitable isolation premises and treatment facilities that are women and child friendly at hospitals in Matabeleland and Bulawayo such as Thorngrove, Mpilo, United Bulawayo Hospitals and Ekusileni. These health facilities are still not adequately equipped to meet medical services to local communities and returning residents from South Africa and Botswana,” the organisations noted.
Rev Sibanda lamented that the attempt by the government to fast-track the enactment of some legislation without proper consultations and regard to due process.
“The attempt to conduct an exhumation process without proper consultations from the families and victims of Gukurahundi is a departure from some of the nation’s founding values which seek to promote social cohesion, national healing and reconciliation.
“We also note with concern an increase in cases of police brutality, which has resulted in deaths of three citizens during the Covid-19 lockdown. Further we are concerned that two women and a man were assaulted by police in Cowdray Park during the same period,” Rev Sibanda said, calling for restraint on the part of the police.
He also called on the government to make sure justice is served on the part of ‘rogue’ officers who crossed the professional line.
“Government has to be reminded of her obligations and duties to uphold basic human rights as defined in Chapter 4 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution. The government has to deal decisively with all cases of corruption non-selectively and in accordance with the law,” Rev. Sibanda said.
“They must attend without delay to the issues raised by medical personnel during their recent protests. Government must also halt certain legislative processes until the Covid-19 curve has flattened in order to allow public participation in policy formulation and provide resources to meet humanitarian support for affected families as a result of the Water Crisis in Bulawayo’s township of Luveve. It must initiate an inquiry and investigations regarding all cases of police brutality in parts of the country as well as publicise the inquiry reports.”