PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday said his proposal to tighten COVID-19 measures on Harare and Bulawayo would worsen the country’s economic challenges and called on Zimbabweans to brace up for more
BY MOSES MATENGA
Zimbabwe is facing its worst crisis in a decade with its currency plummeting while inflation is running at 737,26% amid a critical shortage of hard cash.
Speaking at State House in Harare yesterday, Mnangagwa conceded that Zimbabwe’s hyperinflationary environment, coupled with cash shortages, fuel challenges and other problems had been dire even before the pandemic which has worsened the situation.
Coronavirus infections breached the 1 000 mark this week with 20 deaths, prompting a tightening of the regulations governing movement of people.
“Initially, I declared a national lockdown because we were on a very weak platform to fight the pandemic. When the machinery to capacitate our systems began to work, I relaxed the systems as recommended by WHO (World
Health Organisation). But now with the surge, I am likely to impose further restrictions,” he said.
“We have to choose between having to suffer for a period and salvage (ourselves) and we pick up the pieces and move on or relax to save the economy and have the frustrations where most of our loved ones among ourselves perish,” Mnangagwa said.
“My belief is that even before the arrival of the pandemic in Zimbabwe, we had problems with the economy. It is most critical that we save lives so that we can sit around to discuss restructuring and construction of our economy.”
Government on Tuesday announced that it would tighten lockdown measures in Harare and Bulawayo in the wake of a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, the majority being local transmissions.
The announcement came when opposition parties and citizens were warming up for protests against his government on July 31 over the deteriorating economic situation in the country.
Observers have accused Mnangagwa of trying to use COVID-19 restrictions to foil the protests after his government admitted the planned demonstrations posed a huge threat to the ruling party’s hegemony.
But Mnangagwa said economic revival, under the circumstances, should be second priority as there was need to protect the people from the ravaging COVID-19.
“I say this because I feel I have to move the nation on the need to save lives as a priority and protect the economy as a second priority.”
Government has since 2018 blamed sanctions and natural disasters such as Cyclone Idai, drought and of late economic saboteurs from within the governing party as the economy continued to fail.
The economic situation has worsened, with nurses and other health workers on strike for the last three weeks demanding payment in United States dollars.
Government last week only paid cushioning allowances of $1 200 for teachers and $5 000 for police officers while soldiers got $8 000.
The disparities in the allowances for civil servants angered teachers and observers who felt that the government was divisive and appeasing the security forces in order to use them to quell the July 31 mass protests.
Government and Zanu PF officials have threatened to unleash police and the army to thwart the planned protests.
There have been reports that a crack police team was receiving special training to deal with the protests.
Cabinet on Tuesday said the government would tighten the lockdown and introduce localised lockdowns in “hotspots” as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.