Lockdown enforcement should be coordinated

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LAST Tuesday, there was chaos at several security checkpoints on roads leading into Harare city centre as authorities turned back many who were commuting to work.

While there was nothing wrong with the operation per se, what was perhaps disturbing is the lack of order and coordination. People who had hitherto been allowed into town at the introduction of the level 2 lockdown measures were denied passage.

There was no official communication from the State as to what was happening, leaving everything to speculation. Authorities may have panicked at the sudden surge in confirmed coronavirus (Covid-19) cases which have now soared to 282 and probably wanted to tighten screws on lockdown measures.

Journalists and newspaper vendors — who produced not only exemption letters from their employers but also valid media accreditation cards duly issued by a constitutional body, the Zimbabwe Media Commission, were also turned away. Such action would sanitise neither a poor policy nor its disorderly implementation.

The paranoid State, according to word that was doing the rounds, was reacting to social media reports of a planned protest. Security details at checkpoints did not care to look at exemption letters but just turned people away.

As long as the government is clear on the parameters it has set for essential services and those sectors that have been allowed to operate, which should be communicated openly to those manning the checkpoints, there should be no problems on enforcement.

The government must not hide information from the people, who remain key participants in the success of all State programmes, including Covid-19 interventions whose success hinges on the buy-in of the country’s citizens.

The public resorts to speculation all the time they are denied information they consider crucial. But because there is no clarity, people ended up hazarding all sorts of theories, including that there probably may have been other reasons why people were not being allowed through on the Tuesday in question.

In a nation like Zimbabwe, where society itself is heavily polarised, there is a danger that people place political interpretations to innocent and necessary operations the government may want to undertake.

The enforcement of Covid-19 lockdown measures has not been systematic and the issuance of exemption letters — sourced from different employers — was also open to abuse. Probably these should have been sourced from the

Information ministry, through the employers to guard against abuse.

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