African News Agency (ANA)
Pretoria – A HARD lockdown imposed by Zimbabwe’s government in response to a spike in Covid-19 cases is a “drastic yet necessary intervention” to save lives, said Zanu-PF’s spokesperson Kennedy Mandaza, in South Africa today.
“Given the state of the health-care facilities, and the economic challenges in Zimbabwe, coupled with the desire to curb the spread of the virus to save lives, the decision taken by the government, though drastic, was necessary due to the unprecedented spike in the reported number of new infections and deaths due to Covid-19,” Mandaza said.
“Faced with the challenge that the government was experiencing, the government should be commended for taking that decision to save lives and reduce the spread of the Covid-19.”
Mandaza said multitudes of Zimbabweans living in South Africa had travelled back home for the festive season, before Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also health minister, announced the month-long restrictions on Saturday including an immediate 6pm to 6am curfew and a ban on inter-city travel.
From today, non-essential business activity has also been suspended across the country. Road cross-border traders have also been barred from travelling, save for commercial transport and transit cargo related to essential and critical services.
Chiwenga however said air travel was still allowed, with visitors and returning residents required to present certificates showing them to be free of Covid-19.
Mandaza appealed to the Harare government to allow the throngs of Zimbabweans who had travelled back home for the holidays to return to South Africa were millions live and work, mainly in the informal sector.
“In light of the challenges being faced by those who reside and work in South Africa, we appeal to our government to give them a safe passage through the borders as long as they have the requisite travel documents and Covid-19 free certificate, so that they can save their jobs and continue work and feed their families back home,” he told ANA.
As panic heightened amongst marooned Zimbabweans trying to return to South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government noted a spike in attempts to illegally cross the Limpopo River separating the two countries.
To curb this, Pretoria has deployed additional home affairs and military personnel to the border. The South African National Defence Force has helicopters hovering above, while the South African Police Force has boats patrolling the crocodile-infested river.
The South African branch of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A) said Pretoria was attempting to mask its failures in trying to resolve the political problems facing its neighbour.
“Illegal immigration is caused by the total failure by both South Africa and SADC in addressing the political settlement in Zimbabwe,” MDC-A chairman Trust Ndlovu said.
“The government of South Africa is part of the problem in the economic meltdown of Zimbabwe. Their relationship with the ruling party in Zimbabwe, is costing South Africa in terms of its fiscus and immigration controls.”
Ndlovu said economic immigrants from Zimbabwe should not be classified as undesirable persons in South Africa and that those found with fake Covid-19 certificates should be treated leniently.
“These are desperate measures taken by desperate people in a certain context of the pandemic. It is a violation of South Africa’s immigration (laws) under very difficult conditions,” he said.
As of Saturday, Zimbabwe had recorded 14 491 cases of Covid-19 and 377 deaths, with about 1 400 infections reported over the past week.
Zimbabwe first introduced a hard lockdown in March but had gradually eased the restrictions.