By Albert Nxumalo
Operations at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare have been crippled after Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) workers on Tuesday withdrew their labour citing possible exposure to the deadly global COVID-19 virus.
The move was with immediate effect.
The workers union-Zimbabwe Revenue and Allied Workers Trade Union (ZIMRATU) raised grave concern that one victim of the virus, Zororo Makamba who died on Monday had come into contact with Zimra staff at the airport.
Zimbabwe has only declared two positive coronavirus cases since the disease’s outbreak in China late last year.
In a letter Zimra Commissioner-General Faith Mazani dated March 24, 2020, ZIMRATU said Makamba was served by Zimra officials at the airport hence “there is very high exposure of all staff at the referred airport due to lack of proper stopgap facilities to mitigate the possible spread of the deadly virus.”
“Wherefore it has come to the Zimbabwe Revenue and Allied Workers Trade Union (ZIMRATU) attention that an occupational hazard which is posing grave danger to Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) workers has arisen at the Robert Gabrial Mugabe International Airport,” wrote an L Ngwarati.
Ngwarati said after the discovery of Makamba’s use of the airport “there has not been any testing and possible quarantine of the workers who work at the Airport”.
“There is very high exposure of all staff at the referred airport due to lack of proper stopgap facilities to mitigate the possible spread of the deadly virus”.
“It is in this background that all Zimra workers station at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport is invoking section 104 (4)(a) of the Labour Act Chapter 28.01 with immediate effect”.
The workers vowed not to report for duty until proper measures are taken to substantially mitigate the danger.
It could not be ascertained how many Zimra officials are stationed at the airport.
This week, the government announced a raft of sweeping regulations to control the spread of the disease.
Designated medical officers have powers to order compulsory testing, quarantining, isolation and treatment of anyone who is exposed to an infection or is confirmed as infected.
The new Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) Regulations 2020 were gazetted on Monday and are valid until May 20, although they then may be extended a month at a time.
The new regulations partly overlap with orders previously outlined by President Mnangagwa following the declaration of a state of national disasters, such as the ban on gatherings over the set limit.
However, questions have been raised concerning the country’s readiness to deal with the pandemic due to numerous extenuating factors.
In the past, Zimbabwe has battled to deal with cholera epidemic leaving scores dead.
Currently, the government is making frantic calls on citizens to practice good hygiene.