Many of our people don’t have access to DSTV which is giving the true news about this epidemic, through CNN and other news agencies. The other challenge is that many communities are spending about 15 hours without electricity so they don’t seem to know exactly what is happening in the world. So basically people are depending on WhatsApp rumours which are distorted most of the times.
If you talk to people who live in high density suburbs you will find out that many of them have some strange stories about this pandemic. You hear them saying things like “ Corona is for white people, corona is a disease of rich people , God is punishing the Europeans with this disease, we will never have this disease because our country is hot ” . These are the sentiments that are being circulated there. Why do they have such beliefs?
Why the corona misconception?
Many of these people have no access to the internet or DSTV. Their cellphones and their televisions are off most of the time due to long power cuts. So they are misinformed. Since they follow whatever is said on WhatsApp, they are bound to be misinformed. If they had access to the internet and DSTV like the few privileged people that are taking this virus seriously, then we will not be having ignorance related problems .
Is a lockdown feasible in Zimbabwe?
The most effective preventative measure employed by European countries is shutting down everything and asking people to stay home. They are using terms like “self quarantine, lockdown” to describe this process. So that people can avoid contact. This is the best way to deal with this pandemic.
I am trying to understand how can we do this self quarantine, lockdown thing in Zimbabwe. Let us look at how we live as a people.
In Zimbabwe we have unemployment problem; statistics say 90% of our citizens are unemployed . What does this mean ? It means the majority of our people have no salaries and let us get to the point they have no savings which makes self quarantine a challenge.
When people are unemployed they hustle and live for the day. Most of our people don’t even know what they are going to eat at night each day they wake up. The meal for the day is hunted that day, a hand to mouth lifestyle. So how can our vendors, hustling at Ximex Mall, Mbare, mabhero, queuing for cash queuing go into self isolation without dying of hunger hunger at the same time? How can you keep a Zimbabwean at home when he/she is basically a vendor with no income or savings? This is where the high rate of unemployment haunts us.
How coronavirus spreads via public transport
Corona is basically spreading whenever people gather in groups but how can we protect our people from gatherings ? Since our people are vendors for them to eat they have to go to places like Mbare or the CBD to sell one or two things but travelling means getting onto a Zupco bus where human contact is unavoidable. Many of our people today can’t afford to travel by privately owned minibus . They have to use either a Zupco or an overloaded pick-up truck. It’s not like they don’t know that they are not supposed to be crammed in one place. They know this, but circumstances are forcing them to do that. So they end up saying things like “tochengetwa naMwari” – God will protect us. They cannot stay home, they cannot avoid contact and they are too poor to fight their circumstances.
Do Zimbabweans have access to clean water?
We have water issues as a nation. How can we avoid contact when we have to hunt for water ? We have very few communal boreholes. One person can wait up to three hours trying to fetch water. This explains the length of queues as people try to get water. Hand pumped boreholes are designed to be operated by hand. Thousands of fingers will touch the pump handle as people try to fetch water. Will this not spread the virus?
How do our people live in their homes? In high density residential areas, one house may have a minimum of 3 different families. Think of Mbare Matapi where it is common for nine people to live in one room. They cannot avoid contact. The luxury of “no contact” is for the opulent suburbs.
If the virus spreads how many hospitals do we have and how many people can they take ? How many days does a coronavirus patient have to be in a hospital assuming many people would need to access the hospital at the same time? This brings to mind the old adage, prevention is better than cure. Our health system is in shambles so we can’t imagine our people going to hospitals for treatment in large numbers. Italy, a developed country, is struggling to take all sick patients. Just imagine an outbreak in Zimbabwe.
Waiting for donors to save us
Anyways this is our country. We have a choice to fold our hands and do nothing, in the hope that if disaster strikes, some donor somewhere will save us. Or we can come up with solutions. We cannot leave our lives to chance. Coronavirus is there, it is real. It does affect black people, it affects poor people too, it is not a disease of the rich or white people.
This is the time to help each other. Those that have the resources must start thinking about buying groceries for their loved ones so that they can stay home during the shutdown. It’s not enough for the government to just say to people “hey you stay home!” Let us address why are people going out when they know there is coronavirus.
Government now faces its greatest test. It must give people basic commodities so they can stay home, it must provide water , it must reduce power cuts so that people are informed of what is really happening. This is the time for internet service providers to introduce promotions that make the internet available for everyone. If people die, how then will they make future profits? The government must find a way of feeding its citizens as they stay home. South Africa, America, the United Kingdom are doing that and this is what is making lockdown possible.