Increase social safety nets, govt urged

The Nelson Chamisa-led MDC Alliance has called on government to increase its social safety nets to vulnerable people during the current 21-day lockdown.

By Brenna Matendere

Last week, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said Treasury will set aside resources to cover one million vulnerable households under a cash transfer programme and payment would commence immediately.

“Treasury will initially be availing an amount of $200 million per month under a cash transfer programme over the next three months and both the amount and duration of payments will be reviewed as necessary. The Department of Social Welfare will use its usual mechanisms to identify the beneficiaries,” Ncube said.

Maureen Kademaunga, the opposition party’s secretary for welfare, yesterday told NewsDay that the economic realities of the ordinary citizen and mostly the urban poor and vulnerable could not be ignored.

“… the MDC is concerned about the unfortunate fix upon the ordinary poor citizen. We are at crossroads. On one hand is a devastating virus and on the other a huge crisis of hunger. Whilst the corona scare is real and all efforts and people must unite to fight and prevent it from further spreading by staying at home and practising maximum hygiene, the economic realities of the ordinary citizen and mostly the urban poor and vulnerable cannot be ignored,” she said.

The seasoned social justice activist said the majority poor will not last the 21-day lockdown journey.

“Zimbabweans are living from hand to mouth, surviving on less than US$1 a day. The majority are in the informal sector and survive on daily earnings.

“Having to spend 21 days locked down with no money, food and access to basic essentials is potential breeding ground for diseases and starvation. Already there are disturbing reports of ZRP arresting those queuing to buy food at grocery shops,” Kademaunga said.

“It has been our clarion call as the MDC that government must put in place social safety nets to cushion and protect the most exposed and vulnerable through provision of food and hygiene packs. It would be irresponsible for government to let the situation play out on its own.

“While we take note and acknowledge the Treasury mitigation measures to cover one million vulnerable households under a cash transfer programme, it is our hope that such resources and efforts reach out to the deserving vulnerable people including the elderly, childheaded families and the homeless. It is not the time for the usual corruption and partisan distribution of such assistance as has been the norm with regards food aid in the past. This is a national disaster and all deserving people must be catered for uniformly. The Ministry of Social Welfare must work with local authorities and other community stakeholders to come up with an inclusive non-partisan list of beneficiaries of this scheme.

“A payout of a $100 per household is insufficient to sustain a 21-day period. There has been a current spike in prices. We, therefore, call upon the government to review the amount allocated per household under the cash transfer programme.”

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