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‘Monitoring Government Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic’

Independent electoral watchdog the Zimbabwe election support network (Zesn) recently released a report that covers developments that occurred in the last two weeks of November and the first two weeks of December 2021, as reported by Zesn LTOs.

The report also touched on key matters that include, food aid distribution, accessibility to clean water, the impact of COVID-19 on the health sector as well as elections in the age of COVID -19.   

Zesn hopes that the report will complement the information available for use in the development and reinforcement of strategies aimed at safeguarding the health of citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to updates from the ministry of health, the period saw an increase in the number of people contracting the COVID-19 virus.

According to the report, there were 40 new cases on 28/11/2021; 255 new cases on 29/11/2021; 399 new cases on 30/11/2021; 712 new cases on 01/12/2021; 1042 new cases on 02/12/2021; 1062 new cases on 03/12/2021; and 1082 new cases on 04/12/2021.1

“On 30 November, President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed the nation on COVID-19 related developments.

“In the wake of the discovery of the Omicron variant in South Africa, a 14-day mandatory quarantine of all travellers entering the country, including returning residents, was imposed.

Mnangagwa said that “all returning residents and visitors have to undergo PCR testing, and will be quarantined at own cost, for days recommended by WHO, even if they present negative PCR test results from elsewhere.”

Additional measures announced include: a revised curfew from 9 pm to 6 am, restriction of access to nightclubs and bars to vaccinated patrons, supervision of all COVID-19 related funerals by health ministry officials.

On 8 December, in Victoria Falls, President Mnangagwa said that the country had entered into the fourth wave of COVID-19.

Whereas local health facilities were reported to have continued offering services as before the COVID-19 era, reports of drug shortages were received from some constituencies such as Mt Darwin South, Muzarabani, Goromonzi North, Chimanimani West, Glen View North, Gutu South, Mutare North, Masvingo Urban, Mt Darwin West, Mazowe North, Masvingo West, and Magunje Constituencies.

LTOs reported that there was a challenge of access to clean water in some constituencies such as Makokoba, Pumula, Makoni South, Chikomba West, Umguza, Chiredzi South, Epworth, and Gokwe Sesame constituencies. It is harder for citizens to maintain basic hygienic practices such as regular washing of hands wherever they encounter difficulties in accessing portable.

The government and some non-governmental actors were involved in food aid distribution interventions reported on by LTOs.

Food aid distribution by the Social Welfare Department was reported in Chiwundura, Gokwe Chireya, Chimanimani West, Zaka Central, Mwenezi East, Masvingo South, Chivi South, and Gwanda Central constituencies, among others.

Furthermore, from 13-17 December, Zesn participated in the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Legislative Alignment workshop which identified sections of the Electoral Act which have not been aligned to the Constitution and developed proposals on how the different sections could be revised to make them align with the Constitution.

Moreover, Zesn conducted four community radio programmes encouraging people to register as voters.

“Political parties should retrain their supporters whenever political party activities are being held to eliminate intra-party violence,” Zesn said.

Unofficial pronouncements by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and Government officials indicated that the indefinite suspension of by-elections is likely to be lifted in March 2022.

During the reporting period, ZEC issued a press statement notifying stakeholders that the Commission’s offices countrywide would be temporarily closed from 11 to 19 December ‘as a measure to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus among internal and external stakeholders.

Nevertheless, before this announcement Zesn LTOs has reported the visible presence of ZEC officials in various constituencies who were either conducting stakeholder engagement meetings or pre-delimitation related fieldwork.

ZEC has also held radio programs on most community radio stations countrywide to raise awareness of pertinent electoral intraparty violence.

ZANU-PF held re-runs of district-level elections in some constituencies such as Zvimba West.

LTOs reported visible campaigns by incumbent MPs for Mutare West, Bikita South Constituency and by aspiring candidates for the Marondera East Constituency National Assembly seat.