Elliot Ziwira Senior Writer
• Hygiene, social distancing, sanitisation, staying indoors and masking up are not authorities’ matters; they are real issues, central to the wellbeing of citizens, who should equally play their roles as brothers’ keepers
• It is not about figures. There are names to those figures…
If there is anything that has eluded reason since the outbreak of the highly contagious Covid-19 in December 2019, and subsequently the first confirmed case of the novel virus in Zimbabwe on March 20, 2020, it is the issue of adherence to lockdown measures put in place to curb its spread, particularly where residential areas are concerned.
Like any other country globally, Zimbabwe has enforced national lockdown regulations, now at level four, since March 30 last year, in line with the World Health Organisation protocols. This has seen movement restricted to only those providing essential services as outlined in Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021.
However, inasmuch as movement into the central business districts of major cities and towns in Zimbabwe, particularly in Harare, appear to have been curtailed, the situation in residential areas point to another story.
It is a story where common sense is summoned to weigh options: livelihood or death by Covid-19.
As a natural intuition common sense teaches us that the only way out of a situation is to counter it either by responding in a similar way or a more robust way; or in some cases by negating the existence of such circumstances.
Common sense-based judgments are usually clouded in subjectivity, for there is no room to let that which we do not agree with to prevail.
That there are limited options out there for most citizens is true as far as common sense is concerned; that families need to be looked after is also spot-on. However, beyond common sense, he who seeks to look after his family longer should endeavour to stay alive.
Indeed, it is every citizen’s constitutional right to be allowed to bring grub to the table for his/her family.
Reason implores that whatever we may consider common has its own limitations. It follows, therefore, that when read in the broader sense where individual rights cannot be separated collective rights, common sense becomes a risky investment.
The individual does not exist in a vacuum, neither does he/she exist above moral, social and legal obligation. Whatever rights an individual may attest to as being constitutionally binding should not impinge on others’ rights; the right to equal protection against a pandemic such as Covid-19.
Common sense informs us that vending is a cutthroat business premised on hand to mouth adventures where running battles with the police and other law enforcement agencies are markers of brawn.
It may be so that the novel contagion has impacted on sources of income, which has seen many citizens resorting to vending. It has become a way of life to scores among us; and has been so even before the lockdown. But now it has gone beyond selling on pavements in the CBD to vending from parked vehicles along highways, and on any other corner in residential areas in contravention of lockdown regulations.
It is business as usual, or maybe unusual, from Helensvale, areas around Civic Centre in Marlborough through Westgate Shopping Mall, Westlea, Warren Park, Kambuzuma, Aspindale, Budiriro, High Glen Shopping Mall and its vicinity, Glen Norah, Highfield to Chitungwiza etc.
Could it be that lockdown regulations are confined to the CBD? One wonders. No proper wearing of face masks, no social distancing, no sanitisation; just mingling and hustling.
With vehicular and human traffic becoming a deluge along feeder roads to residential areas; low, medium and high density alike, reason must whisper in common sense’s ear.
Covid-19 is real. It is neither race shy, social class shy nor political affiliation shy. As of February 2, Zimbabwe has recorded 33 814 cases, 26 794 recoveries and 1 254 deaths.
The piercing wails of grief that we presume to hear from our next-door neighbours in the comfort of social media streets, are our own mourns of bereavement.
It is not about figures. There are names to those figures; names of our friends, colleagues, acquaintances, loved ones, classmates and relatives. If we remain complacent, soon our names will be inscribed on that epitaph, whose outlandish and insensitive words are the product of our hands.
With every name that is added to the statistics of the departed, our hearts bleed, because reason informs us that, we, the living, are none the wiser to be burying the dead, for it is in life that death thrives. So, there is nothing to celebrate there; nothing!
It may be a matter of livelihood or death, as 34-year-old Barnabas in Budiriro 4, points out, but as long as we do not adhere to measures put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19, we might as well be prolonging the wait. Using layman arguments in matters beyond our scope has never been known to help situations.
Remember that each time you evade checkpoints, discard masks or wear them inappropriately, dubiously acquire an exemption letter to circumvent lockdown restrictions, or break curfew regulations, you are not only exposing yourself to the deadly virus, but you are also putting your loved ones at risk.
Only one who lives is considered a breadwinner; and he who loves his/her family protects it.
It is not that authorities are not playing their part, no. The police are out there in full force to enforce compliance, but policing begins with the individual.
As President Mnangagwa recently said: “We have lost more across the political divide. The danger we face needs us as Zimbabweans, whatever our station, colour, creed or politics, to be united in grief.
“There are no spectators, adjudicators, no holier than thou, no supermen or superwomen.”
Indeed, we are one people, united in the realities that shape our aspirations and daily travails. Together we can flatten the curve; united we can mitigate each other’s pain.
Hygiene, social distancing, sanitisation, staying indoors and masking up are not authorities’ matters; they are real issues, central to the wellbeing of citizens, who should equally play their roles as brothers’ keepers.
There is a need for collective change of mindset, as citizens occupy a crucial role in that paradigm shift that situates the common good ahead of individual gain.
As authorities play their part through legislative interventions, reason calls for self-censorship, and, therefore, self-abashment. Penalties, no matter how stiff, fall short where the individual will lacks.