By Anna Chibamu
ZIMBABWEANS returning home in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic should not expect to be accommodated in upmarket facilities because the country is going through a major health crisis that requires massive funding, Social Welfare Minister Paul Mavima has said.
Zimbabwe is seeing an increase in citizens returning home for various reasons as the coronavirus takes a toll across the globe. However, every returning resident has to be compulsorily quarantined for 21 days to test for the virus.
This week, some 65 Zimbabweans returned from the United Kingdom and were placed under quarantine at Belvedere Technical Teachers’ College.
However, the returnees complained that facilities at the teacher training centre were too dilapidated for their liking as there was no running water. They demanded to be booked into hotels.
Similar complaints have been received in Plumtree and Victoria Falls where hundreds of Zimbabweans have been deported mainly from neighbouring Botswana and have been placed in isolation centres run by the government.
However, the requests for more conducive places of living seem to have angered senior government officials with Mavima telling the returnees to understand that Zimbabwe was facing an unprecedented national disaster.
“The UK returnees have to bear with us. You cannot expect a first-class facility in a country where there is a crisis,” Mavima said at the weekly Cabinet Meeting media briefing.
“The country is facing a national disaster, but we do not want them to be in squalid conditions. That is why I will be going to Belvedere Teachers College to assess the situation,” he said.
Mavima said authorities could not put the 65 returnees under quarantine at ZIPAM Training Centre in Darwendale where 30 other UK returnees are housed for fear of COVID-19 contamination as the earlier team housed there had all tested negative.
“We never had issues when we took people to ZIPAM. Cabinet has made a decision that even if ZIPAM has space, we can’t quarantine new people there as everyone tested negative. That is why I am going to Belvedere Teachers to investigate their complaints,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary in the Social Welfare Ministry, Simon Masanga has described part of the 65 returning UK residents in Belvedere as a group of rowdy “born-free youngsters” making baseless complaints.
“The government and (Harare City) council have since moved in and sorted the water crisis. I went to there to investigate and discovered that not all people were raising complaints. Those raising complaints were just a group of rowdy youngsters who are born-frees,” he said.
Born-free is a term used to describe Zimbabweans born after independence in 1980.