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Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET)

October 2020 COVID-19 Report

Zimbabwe has recorded 8362 Covid-19 cases as at 30 October 2020, of which 7884 are recoveries, and 242 deaths. It is hoped that the precautions so far undertaken are sufficient in light of reopening of schools and relaxations of curfew. Below is a reporting of events that occurred during the course of October. The report is mostly based on VISET membership throughout the country as well as media reports.

DateAreaIncidentStatus
02/10/2020Beitbridge, Matabeleland South ProvinceVISET Beitbridge members were part of hordes of people turned away at the Beitbridge Border Post, through which they had intended to travel to South Africa following false reports that the port of entry had opened for general human travel.

South Africa opened 18 land borders including Beitbridge and three airports as the neighbouring country moved to alert level one.

However, Zimbabwe is yet to open its land borders to general human traffic.

Zimbabwe and South Africa had closed borders to all but commercial cargo, returning residents and human remains being repatriated for burial in the country, following the outbreak of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic in March.

According to Home Affairs, Culture, and Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe, the land borders are still closed to general human traffic.

There has been a hype about the border reopening in the last few weeks and by midnight on Wednesday, some people had arrived at the border on the Zimbabwean side intending to cross into the neighbouring country.

They were turned away by border officials during screening.
“I was not aware that the border is still closed to ordinary travellers. I intended to travel to Western Cape to visit my daughter who is not well when I was informed of the current position. So, I am going back to Mberengwa until things return to normal at the border,” said Ms Sibongile Ncube
Ten other people who wanted to enter in three vehicles from South Africa were turned away by Zimbabwean officials.
The trend continued until around 9AM when word had spread that general human travel was still suspended.
Besides people being turned away there was a slow movement of commercial cargo leaving the country with the South Africans demanding Covid-19 clearance certificates from commercial truck drivers in line with the new regulations.
Government has since announced that Beitbridge and Plumtree border posts will reopen to private vehicles and pedestrian traffic beginning 1 December 2020. Whilst welcoming the move, cross border traders are up in arms with regards the prohibitive cost for a COVID test pegged at USD 60 and have been appealing to authorities for a downward variation, as most traders were adversely affected by the extended lockdown and are seeking to reestablish themselves.
10/10/2020Mutare, Manicaland ProvinceThe City of Mutare said it will not allow the ministry of small to medium enterprises to dictate the pace in its operations as it plans to reopen markets across the border town.

The local authority is gradually reopening up its market places which were shut down in March to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

So far, the council has decentralised the famous Sakubva horticulture market to high-density areas such as Chikanga, Hobhouse, and Dangamvura.
Mutare town clerk Joshua Maligwa told a recent full council meeting the small to medium ministry should not meddle in their operations as market places were purely council properties.
According to sources the ministry wanted to be involved in the operations of the council-run markets.
“As we plan to open our markets in a safe manner, we will not allow the ministry of SMEs to give us direction,” said Maligwa.
Meanwhile, Care International is assisting the local authority in the refurbishment of dilapidated markets ahead of the reopening exercise.

The refurbishment exercise will see most vendors operating in a hygienic environment and in designated areas      
Refurbishments are ongoing and vendors have expressed their delight at the progress made thus far as well as regards the reopening of old markets. They have appealed to Care International to look at partnering Council on all markets, as most of them are no longer fit for the purpose particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.  
08/10/2020Luveve ,Bulawayo ProvinceResidents of Luveve suburb in Bulawayo have expressed outrage at the ever increasing rate of water rationing, with some of them saying they last received running water 3 months ago. Many informal traders have bemoaned the fact that their trading has been affected as they first have to secure water supplies for the household before starting the work day. Some are having to risk their lives by waking up at 2 a.m. to try and be early. Unscrupulous individuals are now charging a fee at some boreholes where they are in charge, a situation that residents have appealed for council intervention.There appears no end in sight to the water crisis throughout the country and there is urgent need for a multi sectoral approach to the crisis in order to prevent water borne diseases with the fast approaching rainy season in sight.
09/10/2020HarareVendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation held a graduation ceremony for 25 of its graduate vendors who participated in a two week Entrepreneurial training programme to equip them with business skills in how to run and manage a personal business. The 25 were drawn from final year students from various institutions.                                                                     
VISET Executive Director Samuel Wadzai congratulated the graduates and urged them to put in practice the teachings they learnt if they were to succeed in business. The training, which was mooted as a measure to ensure that students have an option given the high rate of unemployment is the first of initiatives by VISET targeted at this group, as there is an agreement with Councils to allocate a quota for them at market spaces should they so wish.  
  The graduates have already begun implementation of their business plans, with some working on startup ideas at eight2five, an incubation hub that has pledged to assist the aspiring entrepreneurs with office space, internet services as well as business advisory services.
13/10/2020Binga, Matabeleland North ProvinceVISET was in Binga for the latest in their series of pre budget seminars. The participants who included councillors for ward 7&9 spoke on the need for consultation as they felt that they were not prioritised in council budgets in particular due to the fact that their priorities which included particularly the need for a hospital were not being prioritised.   The facilitator emphasised that without their participation, it was difficult for voices to be heard, hence why VISET and their partners saw it fit to embark on the sensitization drive to ensure effective citizen participation in national governance affairs. In his vote of thanks, councillor Jumo Muleya thanked VISET for the programme and implored citizens to make their voices heard in all governance matters.  The Councillor is engaging with the Provincial Council to come up with agreed projects to be undertaken with the recently released devolution funds.
17/10/2020Mbare Musika, HarareVendors operating near and around the Mbare Musika long distance bus station are up in arms at government’s decision to close the bus station for renovations, this after the lifting of the ban on intercity travel. Vendors said they were of the belief that these are projects that should have been done and completed during the time of the lockdown, such that when intercity travel restrictions were lifted, they would be able to operate from their traditional market. As it is, with the new bus stations widely spaced and far from Mbare, the vendors feel hard done by the authorities.VISET is engaging with council on the temporary relocation of some of the vendors to Colcom holding bay.
22/10/2020HarareThere has finally been some movement on disbursement of the Covid-19 cushioning fund, with some informal trader representative organisations confirming so.  Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) while acknowledging that its members had received the allowances, said there was a need for the figure to be reviewed upwards considering the challenges that informal traders have faced during COVID-19 induced lockdown.

“As Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA), we acknowledge and welcome the development that has been done by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. Members yesterday confirmed receipt of $600, as part of the government promised cushioning fund.
However, we feel that the money is too little considering the challenges that informal traders have faced during COVID-19 induced lockdown”.
As Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET), we received reports that 158 of our members in Masvingo province are in receipt of the funds. We are of the belief that there was need for greater information dissemination pertaining to this facility and the attendant modalities on order to have meaningful impact. Mediums such as television and radio should have been employed for better reach. It would appear from the reports we are receiving from our membership countrywide that most of the beneficiaries are those in the cities. The other limitation was that some deserving beneficiaries did not have access to One Money, given that Ecocash is the dominant player with over 85% market share.
It is clear from the foregoing that the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the fact that Government has no precise policy on a social protection programme to cover citizens when they are vulnerable economically.

VISET believes it is time that Government has a rethink on the operations of the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), which at present does not cover domestic workers as well as those in the informal sector, despite the fact that at present, this sector accounts for most of those in gainful employment. This is a body that can be structured to ensure that citizens are given an inflation adjusted stipend that can cover purchase of basic commodities in a month. Other countries are known to give unemployment benefits to those out of work. It is indeed a cause for concern that despite this body having been formed to cushion workers when incapacited or in death, the most Zimbabweans have heard of is the numerous scandals that have bedevilled NSSA.    
Government has increased the Covid-19 cash transfers to vulnerable households to ZWL1,000 (USD12) per month from a paltry ZWL300 (USD3,50).
 
Government has further mulled its intention to extend the intervention beyond December as indications are that the pandemic will stretch over into the coming year.
 
Initially, government had pegged the Covid-19 cash transfers at ZWL180 (USD2) for the period between March and December.
 
“Initially, we were paying ZWL180 per household but with rising inflation we raised the figure to ZWL300 and currently we are finalising with the Ministry of Finance to raise this intervention to around a ZWL1,000 per month per household.
 
“Initially, the programme was supposed to run from March to December but we still have COVID-19 with us so the tenure of this programme is subject for review,” said Ministry of Lands, Water and Rural Resettlement permanent secretary, John Bhasera.
 
This comes as a recent Zimstat survey on Poverty and Social Impacts of COVID-19 Results shows that an estimated 21% lost their jobs due to business closure due to the covid-19 lockdown and through retrenchments. The survey also notes that 40% of urban wage workers that kept working saw their pay reduced.
 
Dr Bhasera said the funds are currently supporting 300,000 households.
 
When the intervention was mooted, government said it targeted to support 1 million vulnerable individuals and Dr Bhasera did not clarify the new setup.
 
He added that the Covid-19 cash transfers were one of the several interventions meant to support the informal sector, mitigate loss of income during the lockdown.
 

 
25/10/2020Redcliff, Midlands ProvinceResidents of Rutendo suburb in Redcliff have raised serious concerns over the alleged corrupt tendencies in the distribution of subsidised basic commodities from the United Nations World Food Progamme (WFP) meant for the under-previledged members of the community amid claims that some rogue elements masquerading as members of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) have since hijacked the distribution process.   Speaking to this publication, some of the intended beneficiaries of the WFP subsidized goods and commodities said they were unjustifiably turned away by plaincloth residents masquerading as soldiers from 1 Air Defence (Pondoroza).   A one Takudzwa Nyamudo, alias Takue D, was fingered amongst the military masquerades who turned away some of the beneficiaries at Nasachi Enterprises in Rutendo neighborhood.   “We have been here since morning and we do not know whether we will be able to access the mealie-meal. Even if we try to raise our voices, it is of no help because some of them have been claiming to be soldiers deployed from Pondoroza. We cannot be found fighting against the soldiers,” said an elderly resident who spoke to this reporter.   “It is as if we are getting these products for free. In actual fact, some of the prices that we are being charged to buy the commodities are so exorbitant and hardly reflective of subsidies. It is so worrying that the rightful beneficiaries who were identified by the donors (WFP) and had their names written on the list are being turned away while those who have connections to the ones in charge are allowed to get access into the shop and buy the goods,” said another resident.   A Zwnews crew visited the distribution center and was blocked from recording videos and taking pictures of irate residents by Nyamudo and an unidentified ‘official’.   ZNA spokesperson Alfios Makotore could not be immediately reached for comment during the time of publishing.   In September, the WFP commenced cash disbursements in the scale-up of it’s Urban Social Assistance programme courtesy of funding from the United States through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).      WFP is currently carrying out an audit of all its schemes, following reports that some undeserving beneficiaries were accessing food aid, including the Mayor of Kariba.
28/10/2020Ward 18 Gwanda South, Matabeleland South ProvinceVillagers of Ndibe, Ward 18, Gwanda South are reaping the rewards of an excellent crop of tomatoes, onions, vegetables and carrots, which has earned the group R80 000 from sales to local people, schools, clinics and business centres. Through a US$1,3 million project implemented by Practical Action and funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the project has made it possible after a long struggle of poor water availability, for the community to succeed in its effort to sustain a year – round garden site. “The support we got from Practical Action through the installation of a solar powered irrigation system has improved water availability here at our garden,” said Loveness Ndlovu (56) of Ndibe village. “This has helped us a lot. We are now able to grow vegetables, onions, tomatoes, carrots and green mealies throughout the year. In the past, it was tough as the Sinayi Dam and our boreholes would dry up.” Under the project, Practical Action installed a solar — powered water pumping system, provided irrigation pipes and equipment and sunk boreholes to sustain the community garden. Today, Zenzele Community Garden at Ndibe village in the Ward 18 of Gwanda rural district is a success story and farmers there have earned more than 80 000 rands since May this year from their crop sales. “Since May when the solar powered irrigation system was installed, we have sold our produce worth R80 000 to locals, schools, clinics and business centres in our area,” said Ndlovu. “It’s unbelievable to us. Access to water alone can do wonders. The garden has improved our earnings and livelihoods. We now have hope for the future. It has never happened before and it’s a great achievement for our community.” The community gardens have become a well-established means of improving food security, nutrition, health and economic security for villagers in the Ndibe area of Gwanda South. Pono Moyo, 42, another villager, said it was pleasing that their community was now working towards the self-sufficiency of their village. “Solar irrigation has reduced the burden of work on us as women. We now have access to clean water, fresh vegetables and we are earning money to buy meat, food and other needs for our families,” she said. “Our savings are now R53 000 after meeting other expenditures. We are saving because we need to buy another water pump to boost our water levels for irrigation. I’m a widow and I’m looking after orphans and elderly people in our family. “The garden has changed our lives. I feel empowered and happy that I am now able to earn money and take care of my family.” The Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) has supported the setting up of 18 solar power systems in gardens dotted around Gwanda and Matobo districts to empower women. The programme has enabled the revival and establishment of new community gardens which have become viable settings to improve the ability of smallholders and their communities to meet interrelated concerns of food security, nutrition, health and economic security. Other community gardens such as Vusisizwe B (Ward 14), Selonga — Phakamani (Ward 15), Santshangwa (Ward 15), Retsweletsi (Ward 12), Qedudubo (Ward 13) and Ntuthuko (Ward 11) have all made important contributions to food security as an additional food source or by supplying off-season production.    Farmers are appealing to agricultural extension officers for help in control and elimination of the Tuta absoluta pest, commonly known as tomato leaf miner which tunnels through leaves threatening tomato production and trade. The disease which mainly targets tomatoes, tobacco, eggplants and cabbages, is spreading rapidly in most parts of the country, leaving farmers distressed. Weather changes too, tended to affect the solar irrigation system. When it’s cloudy and cooler, water output can fall affecting the gardening activities. Others complained about poor access to markets and the rising cost of seed and other farm inputs.  

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