Residents of Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, have expressed mixed feelings over President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s extension of the 21-day national lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 by two more weeks.
Extending the lockdown Sunday afternoon President Mnangagwa, said among other things, Zimbabwe was yet to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) conditions for lifting the same.
Some of the conditions include the need to have in place health systems that are capable to test, isolate, treat and trace every contact and having transmission of the virus fairly under control.
Zimbabwe as at Sunday has 25 confirmed cases including three deaths of the deadly pandemic which has infected over two million and claimed thousands across the globe.
“I feel the extension of the lockdown is necessary considering the fact that there has been an increase in the number of confirmed cases in the past week,” said Belinda Longwe, who resides in the city centre.
“Being on lock down for an additional two weeks may be painful but I believe it will do the nation good as there would be minimum spread of the virus.”
She said there was no doubt the extension came with some negative effects.
“We have been grounded in the houses and therefore do not have other sources of income,” she lamented.
“We have had to dig into our savings in order to get basic necessities and by the time we get to the end of the lockdown we will be left with little or no money in our savings. It’s also sad to note that retailers have also taken advantage of the situation to the detriment of the already struggling consumers. Things have become so expensive and unaffordable.”
Longwe encouraged Bulawayo residents to abide by lockdown regulations, emphasizing failure to comply could create more problems for the city.
Shortages of basic commodities such as mealie-meal have been forcing some people not to remain indoors.
“Truth be told, it is not everybody who queues for mealie-meal who doesn’t have it,” said Longwe.
“Some people in those queues have bought several bags and they are all stored in their houses. I don’t mean to sound heartless but I feel the sale of mealie-meal should be stopped for this period. Surely we will not die in this short period. It would be better to endure the lock down, follow regulations and eventually contain the virus than to think with our stomachs and spread the virus.”
Oasis Taurai of Mzilikazi commended the government for extending the lockdown saying if people were to be unleashed out they were going to be “wiped out” by the virus.
“The virus is still wreaking havoc in other nations, so we are equally not spared,” said Taurai. “I feel the government did a good thing (by extending the lockdown) especially that they made provision for the opening of industries in the mining and manufacturing sectors.”
He said residents should use the lockdown period to rest from hustles of everyday life characteristic of many Zimbabweans, adding couples and families should take advantage of the season to bond.
Taurai however, warned against abuse of internet with many people spending days idle.
“There is also the excessive internet associated risks that are coming with the lockdown,” he said.
“Since people have time to be on social media, many lives also will be spoiled by too much content which is toxic.”
He said Zimbabweans who have resisted remaining indoors should not hide behind searching for mealie-meal and other basic commodities.
“The mealie-meal is there with the people,” said Taurai.
“All street pavement vendors who were hoarding mealie-meal through backdoor from shops have at least a tonne at their homes. Cooking oil, sugar, butter, you name it, it’s all stocked in homes. There a very few exceptional cases of those who genuinely have no food.”
He added that most of the people who loiter around have no valid reasons for doing so.
“The President was right in extending the lockdown as that will enable the country to contain the virus in early stages before it affects more people,” said Thabani Ncube of Luveve.
He however said the lockdown would create more challenges for people like him who are self-employed.
“The problem is, ‘where are we going to get the money to pay rentals and buy food while we are in this lock down.’” said Ncube.
“I think the government must help citizens by giving them free electricity, cancelling bills and providing basics such as food. The government must also open hardware and motor spares shops so that some work could be done outside the CBD.”
Muzwanele Ncube of Bradfield described the extension of the lockdown by President Mnangagwa as a “brilliant idea” given Zimbabwe’s compromised state of preparedness in handling the pandemic.
“Personally, having spent almost a month on lockdown, I have probed around the status of my life and realised that I have been basing much of my financial standing on my salary, and this lockdown has given me a wakeup call,” said Ncube.
“I’ll utilise these last two weeks contemplating on the viable options of expanding my income sources and ensure I commence a variable number of income sources/enterprises, once this is over. I would urge other Zimbabweans to deeply introspect their creative nature, because waiting for this economy won’t add value to us.”
He said the shortage of mealie-meal was a serious cause for concern compromising compliance with lockdown regulations, urging responsible authorities to avail the basics in surplus quantities at the nearest points of sale.
“It’s basically hunger against compliance to lockdown for most average households in Zimbabwe and given the unemployment rate people will always go out once subsidised commodities are availed in the nearest shops rather than to comply and be in poverty.”
Thabo Sibanda of Emganwini said the extension was of paramount importance.
“Returning everything to normalcy will be a recipe for disaster considering that we don’t know the exact number of people who are positive since the outbreak of this deadly pandemic,” said Sibanda.
“By lifting the lockdown will be risking contracting this disease at a faster rate, considering that the majority of us have not been tested. The extension however has a negative impact in the sense that the majority of Zimbabweans are in the informal sector. It’s only a handful who are formally employed and as a result it will be difficult for many to pay rentals, buy electricity and food for their respective families. The extension is indeed a bitter pill to swallow for them.”
He said for Zimbabweans to comply, there was a need for them to be informed through the media and be given global statistics on infections and deaths to show how deadly the pandemic is, adding the security forces should continue to enforce the lockdown.
“Lockdown extension was a good move,” said Priston Levison, another Mzilikazi resident.
“I would rather struggle these coming two weeks than die lonely in isolation and be buried like a dog where my relatives will not mourn me freely. If we survived three weeks surely we can survive the coming two weeks. So in a nutshell I am happy lockdown was extended.”
He however said he had hoped to hustle for rent and other monthly financial obligations from April 20 had the lockdown not been extended, little did he know he would be grounded again.
“I am forced to cut number of meals per day so that I save money for rent,” he explained.
“In other words we are forced to sleep late and wake up late so that we reduce on the number of meals per day. For example, if I wake up at 10 am, do chores then combine breakfast and lunch around 12:30, I will be able to do a 0-1-1.”
On residents not complying with lockdown measures, Levison said prices of basics at local shops were forcing them to opt for town.
“So then it will be wise to introduce price controls for basic commodities,” he suggested. “More so, we request an addition of two more hours for shops at least to operate from 08:00 to 16:00 hours so that queues are reduced.”
Nqobani Nkomo of Selbourne Park also welcomed the extension but was quick to say very soon residents would not be able to feed themselves.
“We are running out of cash and soon food,” said Nkomo.
“Spending has declined as there is no income coming in.”
He added that there was a need for authorities to monitor the sale of subsidised maize meal to minimise corruption.