Community members who are part of Virtual Platforms established by communities working with Heal Zimbabwe from Gutu and Zaka have singled out corruption by law enforcement agents as the major spreader of COVID 19.This came out during a virtual dialogue meeting organised by Heal Zimbabwe on 11 January 2020.The objectives of the dialogue were to take stock of how communities were coping in the wake of the 30 day lockdown and also conscientise communities on COVID 19.
Participants highlighted that besides the 30 day lockdown that is in place, most bar owners are paying law enforcement agents money to open their bars at night.”The spread of COVID 19 is being made worse by police officers who are being paid money by bar owners. We have seen bars secretly opening at night and are usually packed to capacity. Patrons in these bars do not even wear face masks or observe social distancing. This has led to a surge in COVID 19 cases”, said one participant from Gutu. Participants also highlighted that government was supposed to continue strictly screening and testing people who were coming into local communities from countries such as South Africa that had in recent months recorded a spike in COVID 19 cases.”Mandatory screening and testing was no longer prioritised during the festive season and as such here in Gutu we recorded an increase in the number of people coming from South Africa. Some of these people evaded quarantine centres through illegal entry into the country and paid bribes to police officers manning roadblocks. This has made it difficult for communities to manage and control the spread of COVID 19”, said another participant. Other issues that came out during the dialogue include the reluctance by citizens to wear face masks and observe social distancing especially at business centres and other public places.
The dialogue meeting resolved that it there was need for citizens to take ownership of the fight against COVID 19 instead of leaving the responsibility to law enforcement agents. This involves encouraging community members to wear face masks, use of soap to wash hands and observing other COVID 19 preventative measures.
The virtual dialogues by Heal Zimbabwe are an initiative meant to create platforms for communities to discuss and collectively identify ways through which they can proffer solutions to problems in their communities. The virtual platforms also equip communities with relevant information on Covid 19, GBV and human rights. Virtual platforms are also platforms that facilitate local level conversations on pertinent issues affecting communities as well as create socially cohesive communities.