BY STEPHEN CHADENGA
IT’S Tuesday morning around 6am and 39-year-old Esnath Murau from Old Ascot high-density suburb in Gweru is carrying her six-month-old baby on her back.
Her other child, a five-year-old girl is walking besides her as the they make one of their daily trips to an illegal vegetable market in Mtapa. The area was condemned by Gweru City Council as a COVID-19 hotspot, but vendors have defiantly continued using it.
Unperturbed by the obvious risks of contracting the respiratory disease, Murau has her face mask dropped to the chin, violating COVID-19 regulations which required the covering of the mouth and nose. Her two children do not have masks.
Murau leads her two children to the illegal new fresh produce market, where hordes of other vendors, mainly women spend the day illegally selling horticultural produce, among other food items.
What is quite disturbing at the market is not the violation of lockdown rules, but the exposure of minor children, who are led to the coronavirus hotspot on a daily basis by their vending mothers.
“I have no one to leave my children with, that is why I bring them here with me,” Murau said.
“They are too young and I can’t leave them with neighbours either. So I have to be with them as I try to eke out a living during these tough times. The situation is pretty bad for us as mothers.”
As for the children’s masks, Murau asked rhetorically: “How do you expect me to put a mask on the face of a six-month-old baby?”
She strongly believes God would look after her two children even when they are exposed to these crowds on a daily basis.
Another mother of a one-year child who identified herself as Mai Hazel concurred, saying: “When you are trying to eke out a living in an abnormal situation, it is a do-or-die gamble. As for the little children, only God can take care of them.”
Many other women who are into illegal vending shared similar sentiments, saying they were forced by the situation to take their children to vending sites.
They said besides not being “comfortable in covering faces of their children with masks”, they had no option as they are mainly concerned with putting food on the table for their families.
Gweru mayor Josiah Makombe was, however, not amused by the residents’ defiance.
“We have said that market is a COVID-19 hotspot and I am really upset when people continue to go there,”he said.
“What makes it even more disturbing is that women have the audacity to take their children to that area, exposing innocent souls to the ravages of coronavirus.”
He added: “This nonsense should just stop. The argument by these women that they have no choice when they risk the lives of children cannot be bought at all.”
- Follow Stephen on Twitter @jagganox78