Industry and employers have welcomed the reopening of mining and manufacturing businesses during the Covid-19 lockdown, but want to see at least parts of more sectors allowed to operate under strict controls to keep the economy afloat and save jobs.
During the first 21 days of lockdown telecommunications, a limited number of food producers and food shops were allowed to open followed at the end of the first week by agriculture and farmers and produce markets.
Announcing the 14-day extension on Sunday, President Mnangagwa added mining and manufacturing to the list, including informal manufacturing, but under conditions to be set by public health authorities using World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) president Dr Israel Murefu told The Herald yesterday that the lockdown extension was necessary for public health, but there was need to open more sectors of the economy, albeit under controls and limits.
“Our view is that while the extension was necessary for purposes of safeguarding the health and well-being of the nation, consideration should have been given to allow other non-essential businesses apart from mining, manufacturing and telecommunications and related industries to have limited operations for the sake of their survival and saving jobs,” said Dr Murefu.
“Obviously, the objectives intended to be achieved in the first 21 days have not been fully realised and an extension was inevitable. This is commendable, but we would have wanted to see more sectors being allowed to open, but without compromising safety, health and other risks associated with Covid-19.”
Dr Murefu said some companies might fail to open when the lockdown was over.
“We will continue to lobby for more operators to be allowed to come back to operations with strict adherence to safety including compulsory use of PPEs, maintenance of social distance and strict personal hygiene standards. We still have an economy to take care of and that is the economy sustaining the nation at large through jobs, incomes and a consuming public.”
In their position paper on interventions to address Covid-19, the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), recommended a partial lockdown that would help in curbing the spread of the pandemic but still allow more shops to open under conditions.
“The economy cannot afford to continue on total lockdown, after the 21-day total lockdown comes to an end, given the implications of total lockdown on the economy,” said ZNCC in their position paper.
“A partial lockdown will entail that there will be continued monitoring and that businesses’ will be allowed to operate within adjusted working hours of between 5am to 7pm. Movement of people will be limited — that is there will be no movement from one city or town to another but rather movement will be confined to a city or town.
“A partial lockdown is ideal because a premature cancellation of the restriction to movement from one town to another can undo the
objective of curbing the spreading of the virus.”
Partial lifting of the Covid-19 lockdown on Sunday saw an improvement in activity in Harare yesterday with more shops ad companies opening for business.
Human and vehicular traffic was higher in the city centre and while police check points were still stopping all vehicles driving into the central areas, more were being allowed to pass.
On Sunday, President Mnangagwa extended the national lockdown with another 14 days but allowed the manufacturing and mining sectors to resume operations within the parameters of the World Health Organisation guidelines on Covid-19.
Informal traders at Siyaso in Mbare, a manufacuring complex, were operating at a slow level selecting customers to serve.
At Glen View Area 8, the complex was closed but a list of members who operated there was being compiled. Mr Tawanda Chanakira who is the secretary of the management committee at the Glen View Complex said they were asked to submit a manageable list of people who should resume operations.
“We have been asked to submit the names to the Ministry of Women’’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development so that a sizeable number of people can start working here,” he said.
“The reason for us to have a small number of people is us to observe the social distance rule and other Covid-19 mitigation measures. Once the list is approved, we are going to resume operations.”
Most industries in the Workington industrial area were still closed as industry owners digested the change and were working out how to re-open under the rules and controls
Queues were also forming at fuelling stations.
In Beitbridge, there was a hive of activity at most business centres in the town, where most residents were seen buying more food.
Ms Netsai Madori who sells vegetables at Mashavhire Business Centre said though they were allowed to operate under tight timelines, they were finding it hard to restock since most of the products they sell were imported from other districts.
A member of the Beitbridge cross border operators, Mr Blessing Mureyani, said most of their members had been adversely affected and that the effects were also being felt in the retail sector.
“We are part of the supply chain as cross border operators and the lockdown and closure of borders to smaller vehicles are presenting challenges for many people who are now struggling with their general upkeep.
“Our appeal to the Government is that they must allow access to the border post to those with 5-tonne trucks so that they may help many local shops to restock,” said Mr Mureyani.
Beitbridge Business Association coordinator, Mr Clevers Moyo agreed that the extension was needed but the small and medium businesses he represents need grants to get back on their feet and a tax holiday for three months.
In Kariba, residents including business operators said extension of the lockdown was inevitable as the country sought effective strategies of managing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Batonga suburb resident and businessman Mr Cephas Shonhiwa said it was important to save lives as the exponential rise of cases would overwhelm the country’s health system leading to massive deaths.
Mutare residents expressed mixed feelings over the extension of the national lockdown by 14 days.
Those in the informal sector said although the extension was necessary, it meant they would not be able to put food on their tables anytime soon.
“I am a welder at Green Market and what I was making before this was not enough for me and my family. Now we have to stay at home for two more weeks. If there was a way for us to continue working for our families, we would appreciate it,” said Mr Simba Moyo.
Others wanted better service for food deliveries. Mutare shops began selling subsidised roller meal to residents in high density suburbs on Saturday.
In Masvingo, a cross section of society here has hailed President Mnangagwa’s move to extend the lockdown saying while this had serious repercussions on their pockets, it remained unavoidable because of the threat caused by the deadly coronavirus.
According to Mr Israel Kandemiri, a resident from Mucheke suburb, there was no other option besides extending the lockdown in the face of coronavirus.
This was supported by informal trader Mr Itai Hwenjere who said President Mnangagwa deserved a pat on the back for making decisions for the greater national good.
“It is better for us to stay indoors and avoid mingling and mixing,” he said.
Masvingo Industrialisation and Trade Association (MITA) chair Cde Gilbert Chikwata said they were happy with the extension of the lockdown by a further two weeks.
“As informal traders our members work in crowded places where in the absence of a lockdown people will be at very high risk of being infected with the virus and quickly spread it to others.”
Other traders also said human life was more precious than everything else and a Government should only lift the lockdown when other nations and the WHO say it is safe to do so.