PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has, in the last few days, been driven around suburbs in Harare, Norton, Chegutu, Kadoma, Kwekwe and Gweru, “to assess whether people are observing the 21-day lockdown or not”.
Wherever he has been to, the roads appear to have been deserted with, apparently no one disobeying his orders for people to stay indoors as a way to combat the spread of coronavirus.
He was convinced people are observing the lockdown.
“I am happy that our people are observing the lockdown measures. Everywhere we went, people were in their homes. Business centres had no people, especially in Chegutu and Kwekwe, the towns were virtually empty,” Mnangagwa was quoted as saying.
“People are observing the measures that were put down. It helps not only individuals. It helps everybody in the country. The country is helped by that we are observing social distance. If we keep social distance, we mitigate the spread of the virus.”
However, as to what he saw and believes is happening, nothing could be further from the truth, an actual tale of “appearance versus reality”. Going by the reports in the State-controlled media, the President did not get out of his car. So he probably did not see members of his army beat up people to get them out of sight before he passed through, a tactic used even in the days of the late former President Robert Mugabe.
The result was that he never saw the long queues for basic commodities or the winding fuel queues and expressed surprise when he was asked about them.
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Same problem for Mnangagwa. While police and the army have set up roadblocks, dealing with all elements trying to sneak into the city centre, it remains business as usual in the suburbs where people rarely stay home.
Pictures have been making rounds on both social and mainstream media of people queuing for basic commodities, mealie-meal being the most sought-after, people not observing social distancing and without adequate sanitisers to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
The manner the pictures have circulated could have no doubt got the attention of Mnangagwa who, however, still insists on driving around in a huge motorcade and dozens of aides, security personnel and government officials to monitor whether people are observing the lockdown or not.
The truth of the matter Mr President is people are not.
They only jumped into their yards, went indoors and waited for your unusually big motorcade to pass so that they get back to their real life.
In the suburbs, it is business as usual as has been observed in Mbare, Warren Park, Budiriro, Norton, Dangamvura, Mbizo, Chitungwiza, to mention but a few. With hunger stalking them, not many people take note of the social distancing protocols.
Yes, the police officers and army personnel are turning people to go back home, but no one monitors anything or anyone once they are back in their suburbs.
Bars are open clandestinely with people drinking freely as if they are on extended holidays. Car washes are open, as are markets in the neighbourhood.
Members of the uniformed forces only come mainly in the evening, do their rounds, scare away people and leave, allowing people to return to their normal lifestyles.
The number of coronavirus cases has risen from three at the time of the lockdown to 17, with three deaths. So talk alone is not enough in these desperate times. Real enforcement remains key and what is happening on the ground is scary. The lockdown is not being observed, people are definitely not staying indoors, arguing they will be looking for water, food or anything.
It remains business as usual in Zimbabwe, sadly. It is time for real enforcement, or there is a high price to be paid.