Census in bumpy ride

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TAFADZWA KACHIKO/PRIDE MZARABANI/PROBLEM MASAU
THE past seven days of the 2022 national population and housing census have been bumpy for some Zimbabwe Statistical Agency (ZimStat) enumerators who have been reportedly threatened and mugged in the line of duty.

The census, which will run for 10 days, has also been marred by several other challenges that include shortage of equipment, inaccessibility of some areas due to flooded rivers and harassment by some homeowners, with some setting dogs on enumerators.

Addressing journalists during a Press conference in Harare on Monday, ZimStats director general, Taguma Mahonde warned members of the public that unruly behaviour borders on criminality.

“We have received such cases, but they are few. We are aware that there are people with frustrations which they want to vent on census enumerators. It’s important to note that being aggressive is actually a crime, and that should be brought to book. We will persist until we get what we want as mandated by Statutory Instrument 205 of 2021, which mandates us to do the census,”Mahonde said.

Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana also tweeted saying there had been several incidents reported to the police pertaining to death threats and harassment of census enumerators.

“In Warren Park, an enumerator was chased away by a respondent holding a knife threatening to kill him. The case was reported to the police and the respondent was arrested. In Mandara, one case of a respondent who wanted to burn an enumerator with hot water was reported. Another enumerator in ward 41 (Marlborough) was bitten by dogs” Mangwana tweeted.

He said in Avondale, a Pakistani family offered an enumerator US$150 after mistaking the enumerator for an immigration official, a sign that there might be several people illegally living in the country.

Mangwana also said that in Bikita, a census supervisor was robbed of his tablet, but the culprit was later caught trying to sell the gadget in Gutu.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said he was yet to receive reports about harassment of census enumerators.

“I will have to check the situation throughout the country tomorrow,” Nyathi said.

NewsDay also gathered that in places such as Nyanga and Chimanimani, enumerators complained about walking very long distances and crossing flooded rivers to access villages in order to count people.

Enumerators also cried foul over lack of protective clothing such as raincoats and material to shelter their ICT gadgets given the prevailing bad weather conditions.

The census enumerators have also bemoaned lack of toilets in some places. In Masvingo’s Mwenezi district, the Zimbabwe Peace Project said the census failed to start due to failure by ZimStats to provide enumerators with tablets. But the ZimStats spokesperson refuted the allegations saying all census enumerators had been issued with tablets. Mahonde, however, told journalists that the other challenges faced by ZimStats during the first five days of the exercise included failure to get vehicles for hire in provinces.

“As the case with many major operations, there are bound to be challenges. We hired vehicles for provinces. However, there are some challenges we faced because of the rains. In Matabeleland North and Midlands we have had challenges with flooded rivers. We managed to deal with those issues although we had to use longer routes to access the areas,” he said.

“In urban areas network connectivity has not been a challenge and as a result the data collected has been easy to sync with our servers. However, when we go to some remote areas connectivity becomes a challenge. So, what we have received so far isn’t concrete because some enumerators are still trying to sync the data.”

Explaining the reported cases of scarcity of tablets Mahonde said they had largely been caused by overwhelming numbers at church gatherings in some areas.

“We had to withdraw our enumerators from the whole of Shamva (for instance, to the Johane Masowe Vadzidzi VaJesu Church gathering in Madziwa Shamva) to enumerate congregants. The exercise moved to the area the following morning and when we were about to finish there was another gathering nearby. That was a day lost. That explains the delays in distributing tablets to some areas. The challenge is that we were just coming from Easter and that’s the time some churches congregated,” he said.

Based on data that had been consolidated by ZimStats as at 1500hrs yesterday (day 5) 5 816 396 people and 1 464 050 households had been counted.

“As at 1500hrs yesterday 1 456 088 interviews had been successfully completed.  People in 203 buses that were travelling were enumerated on the census night along highways,” Mahonde said.

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