Government urged to take social safety nets for the vulnerable seriously

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HUMAN rights watchdog, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), has called on the government to prioritise the provision of social safety nets for the vulnerable amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

This comes as Finance minister Mthuli Ncube recently revealed that the government was still deliberating on whether to increase the $300 allowance for vulnerable households, which was introduced in April this year to cushion people who lost their sources of income owing to Covid-19.

“The government has come up with half-hearted attempts to provide relief, but these fall far short of giving a semblance of dignity to hard-pressed Zimbabweans. For example, the subsidised mealie meal has never been adequately available, resulting in people having to spend hours in queues to get a 10 kg bag, if at all they get it.

“Another example is the public transport system, where the government has engaged private transporters to join their subsidised transport scheme through the state-owned Zupco.

Government bungling, allegations of corruption and general ineptness have contributed to the current public transport crisis in Zimbabwe.

“While government has continued to promise some relief to those whose economic activities were affected by Covid-19 and the vulnerable, this has been all talk as the only formally announced assistance was a $300 token the Finance minister said would be transferred to vulnerable people,” the ZPP said.

“The government has the obligation to provide social protection to all citizens and the ZPP continues to call on the administration to reconsider its approach to the economic and social issues affecting Zimbabwe, and to realise that economic development only happens if government is prepared to invest in the social protection of the very valuable human resources,” ZPP added.

The ZPP further called on the government to intervene and address concerns of teachers and civil servants
in general, amid ongoing industrial action by teachers who are demanding remuneration in United States
dollars or the equivalent.

“Due to the skewed nature of the economy, and the elitist policies of the Finance ministry, which has condemned government workers to poverty wages for two years now, the gap between the few rich and the poor millions has grown wider.

“For example, a teacher in Zimbabwe earns an average of less than US$50, which is just but a poverty wage. It must be noted that civil servants’ salaries are a benchmark for many other industries, so it can be safely concluded that the generality of Zimbabweans employed in various sectors earn less than US$100.

“This has left many vulnerable, considering that according to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions,
which is planning a general strike, less than 20 percent of Zimbabweans are employed in the formal sector,”
the human rights watchdog said.

Meanwhile, the ZPP indicated that in September, 23 cases of assault, 11 incidents of unlawful detention,
two cases of torture and 81 cases of harassment and intimidation were recorded.

“Disaggregated, the police contributed the highest percentage at 31,03 percent, followed by Zanu PF
at 15,61 percent, the army at 13,83 percent and the municipal police at 10,87 percent, while unspecified state agents contributed to 3,56 percent. “The MDC Alliance contributed 1,58 percent and MDC-T Khupe was in the
same region at 1,19 percent attributable to the conflict between the two factions. The affiliation of 22,33 percent of the perpetrators was unknown,” ZPP said

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