I applaud the initiative by government to cushion vulnerable people from the harsh effects of the 21-day national lockdown by availing a $200 million coronavirus grant set to be disbursed to approximately four million Zimbabweans.
But I have some questions regarding this grant, which I hope Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima can clarify.
From what I gather, this grant is coming from donor funding. I have also read media reports of mayors and council officials claiming they were asked to provide databases of vulnerable people to receive the assistance, but Zanu PF hijacked the process and created the lists of the beneficiaries who will ultimately receive the assistance.
Zanu PF has been known to abuse State or donor resources in the past, and I would personally believe the allegations I have read, given that there have been many videos circulating where the ruling party officials publicly say that members of the opposition MDC will not receive any assistance that comes from or through government, and nothing has been done by the President to reprimand these wayward officials.
My second point is that if this is donor money, it has to be made clear to the recipients that the assistance you are receiving has been made possible through donors, so that the beneficiaries can also appreciate the donors, whoever they are, for the assistance.
I have read many reports of assistance that has been given, including from the United Kingdom, the United States, local companies and other organisations, and when such assistance is passed on to beneficiaries, they should be made aware who their benefactor is.
The tendency seems to be that some government officials want themselves to be seen as the ones rescuing the people, even where a good percentage of the donated resources ends up in the pockets of corrupt government officials.
While they may acknowledge donations in media, to the beneficiaries, they tell them support is coming from government to give an impression that they care for the people during trying times such as this.
The other point I need to raise is that government officials should be honest when they make public statements. Finance minister Mthuli Ncube was interviewed earlier in the year saying Zimbabwe was very much prepared for the coronavirus. Really?
It would be in the best interest of the world if you can tell us how prepared Zimbabwe was then or is now to fight the fast-spreading disease. We don’t want empty promises, we want action, and Ncube should be arrested under the new regulations that prevent peddling of falsehoods about COVID-19.
Coronavirus should have been an opportunity to unite the people, as we see happening globally, not be abused by fame-seeking oppressive governments that want to use crises to prop up their images using falsehoods.
It is plausible to note that some companies, organisations and individuals have realised the need for unity of purpose and supported the fight in various ways.
Unfortunately, in some instances, well-wishers have been discouraged or blocked by agents of government from assisting, an example being the Marondera Central MP Caston Matewu, whose offer I read was turned down just because he is a member of the opposition.
Government should allow any persons to assist in the way they can in the fight against COVID-19. Unfortunately, sometimes official statements are made just to hoodwink the world into thinking that Zimbabwe is a government open to all, but practically, I have heard of people who have been frustrated when they try to help.
In some countries, in New Zealand for an example, the leader of the opposition party heads Parliament’s epidemic response committee.
Zimbabwe may want to borrow a leaf from the New Zealand arrangements as the country needs to bring every shoulder to the task.
I have heard opposition leaders say COVID-19 is everyone’s business, hence I would recommend to Parliament that a parliamentary committee be set up comprising all the main political parties. That may help bring in some new ideas in the fight against the pandemic.
Minister, I hope you find a few take aways from this post.
Kennedy Kaitano, Our Reader