San Community left out in Govt Covid-19 response

By Sam Noko

The San Community in Tsholotsho has complained that they are left out in the government’s Covid-19 programmes and have to rely on non-governmental organisations for information on the pandemic.

Elders in the community are also reported to be disinterested in taking up Covid-19 preventative methods preferring to use traditional herbs.

The San community in Tsholotsho are mostly found at Sanqinyana, Gariya and Dlamini villages.  

A member of the community Christopher Dube lamented that the community is being sidelined by government authorities since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

 “The San community here in Tsholotsho is surviving by the grace of God as we have not yet seen any help from the government in relation to the Covid-19 prevention materials and information,” Dube who is a San community rights activist said.

“We only get awareness from non-governmental organisations and civil society which is not enough for us.”

Dube also said the little information that reaches the San community is mostly in Ndebele and English. 

The Khoisan language Tjwao is among the 16 official languages in Zimbabwe. 

“The little information we get from CSOs is mostly in Ndebele and English and Radio and Television is only accessed by a few in some areas here because of poor reception,” Dube said.

Tsoro-o-otso  San Development Trust, an organisation lobbying for the rights of the San has noted that the biggest challenge was access to accurate Covid-19 information.

“We then established a COVID 19 information resource centre and went on to train 18 COVID 19 health Response Teams. The teams are tasked with the collation and dissemination of information to the most remote areas where the San are currently found,” said the director, Davy Ndlovu.

“The San are used to traditional medicine, especially the elderly and now to tell them that if they catch the virus they may need things like oxygen and ventilators that creates a lot of confusion.”

Ndlovu said right now they are raising awareness on the Covid-19 vaccines.  “A lot of misinformation is being peddled about the vaccine, especially the one coming from China. People in the rural areas do not trust the Chinese people and therefore they don’t trust the vaccine coming from China,” he said.

He also said the issue of the community’s access to personal protective equipment was a challenge considering the fact that the area is remote and has a poor road network. However, Matabeleland North Provincial Medical Director Munekayi Padingani said the ministry was making efforts to conduct meetings with community influencers such as religious leaders in all districts in the province to increase Covid-19 awareness.

“They also spread the information to their congregants and some invite ministry staff to raise awareness in their churches.  Efforts to raise awareness about Covid-19 at any gathering such as funerals or food distribution are made. There was also an initiative to form Covid-19 task forces up to village level,” Padingani said.

“I advise people to keep on practicing measures to prevent the pandemic.” 

He said however, traditional and community leaders were also being sensitised on the pandemic and are still being engaged in order to assist in information dissemination within their communities.

“Food distribution venues are opportunities for community awareness when gatherings are not allowed. Partners also disseminate information on Covid-19 during their programmes activities within the communities since they have been sensitised on the disease,” Padingani said.

Tsoro-o-otso  San Development Trust recently revealed that it is now over 90 years from 1926 since the San were forcefully removed from their natural habitat to pave way for the establishment of the Wankie Game Reserve now Hwange National Park during the colonial period and most of them settled in Tsholotsho at Sanqinyana, Gariya and Dlamini villages.

The San population is estimated to be over 2 500 across the country. 

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