Fears Covid-19 travel passes might fuel corruption: rights watchdogs

By Nyaradzo Nyere

The Zimbabwean government’s Covid-19 lockdown measures on the need for exemption letters to manage the number of people travelling unnecessarily should be managed transparently to avoid  fuelling corruption.

 According to rights watchdogs,  the country must also always be wary of  discriminatory practices.

Samuel Wadzai, the Director of Vendors Initiative for Socio-Economic Transformation, says: “We have seen in the past the same letters being used to perpetuate corruption and the side-lining of informal traders.”

“If the letters are to be adopted, then there is need to ensure that there is enough information about how they are obtained so that our members do not become victims of unscrupulous bureaucrats and Government officials,” he said.

People with Disabilities (PWDs)

Samantha Sibanda, the director of Signs of Hope Trust, says the discriminative nature of lockdown regulations are particularly evident on People With Disabilities (PWDs).

“There are these lockdowns where they say essential workers are allowed to work and those with formal businesses.  

“And, if you look at people with disabilities, they are amongst the highest minority group that are unemployed because they don’t have access to education and they are also being discriminated against in terms of getting access to jobs so they live from hand to mouth selling airtime and vegetables. 

“They are vendors basically so they don’t have formal business,” she said.

According to Sibanda, people with disabilities do not have opportunities for formal businesses and many are dependent on others for survival. She says the regulative demands of the lockdown are not favourable to those who are poor and those with disabilities.

Sibanda says since the first lockdown, the rights of people with disabilities have been side-lined. 

“There are sudden changes that were made.  In the first lockdown in March 2020, we were just told two days prior to the lockdown that there was going to be a lockdown. PWDs don’t have savings, they live from hand to mouth so it was a really difficult time.

“… deaf learners lost education for almost a whole year …  in the response strategy there were radio lessons and deaf learners cannot hear radio lessons and later on they introduced television lessons but these did not have captions or Sign Language. 

“Only recently  … ZBC is now using captions and Sign Language, this is very positive but education wise they had almost lost a year,” added Sibanda.

pandemic hits all sectors 

According to the United Nations’ socio economic framework report, the pandemic is likely to affect every sector of the Zimbabwean economy and all segments of society but with differential impacts depending on age group, gender, disabilities, socioeconomic status, geographic location.

“In fact, pre-COVID-19, a large proportion of the population (2.2 million people or 76 percent, many of whom are youths), were employed in the informal economy. 

“With lockdown and resulting job losses, we can anticipate that the informal sector will grow even larger. The need to ensure that this group is targeted for support is crucial as an asset for the development of the country,” stated the report.

Sibanda urged the government to ensure that its Covid-19 measures and requirements were “pro poor”, that is in favour of the disadvantaged.

“The fight against Covid is everyone’s responsibility … we should make sure that everybody understands that we are all important components of the response to Covid so everybody should be consulted and considered when it comes to the rapid response.

“No one should be left behind,” he said.

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