Mashudu Netsianda/ Mthabisi Tshuma, Chronicle Reporters
THE situation at Plumtree High School, a Covid-19 isolation centre for Zimbabweans repatriated from Botswana, has improved after Government responded to an exposé by Chronicle on Saturday.
More than 260 returnees were housed in squalid and unhygienic conditions at the school. The ablution facilities were unhygienic, amid water shortages at the school, making it a ticking health time bomb.
Last Thursday, Botswana deported 185 undocumented Zimbabweans through Plumtree Border Post while 82 others who were legally staying in that country voluntarily returned home.
The principle of social distancing, which is key in containing the spread of the deadly global pandemic was not being applied as two people were forced to share a single bed in the hostels and some of the beds have no mattresses.
The Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu who is in charge of Matabeleland South province under the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19 and Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Paul Mavima who is also a member of the taskforce visited the school that has been turned into an isolation centre on Saturday.
Returnees who spoke to Chronicle yesterday expressed satisfaction after Government improved their conditions, restored water supplies and donated more than 500 blankets.
“We received blankets and soap and the water supplies were restored. However, the main challenge is that food is not enough but we are glad the situation has tremendously improved,” said Ms Tariro Mwanakwaye.
She however, said the principle of social distancing remains a challenge.
When a Chronicle news crew visited the isolation centre yesterday, female returnees were being relocated to a separate hostel as authorities decongested the hostel, which was previously overcrowded as both male and female shared the facility.
Mangwe District Development Coordinator Ms Rolisang Makhurane said Government and development partners have addressed most of the pressing issues that had seen deportees being subjected to inhumane treatment.
“We have received 200 blankets from Zimbabwe Revenue Authority Plumtree and 220 from Red Cross. We are also getting more blankets from Zimra Beitbridge. We have also decongested the members and opened another hostel where we will separate males from females. Our water situation has improved.
The Town Council has repaired or opened the valve that was blocking the water, water is running as I talk. The food is enough for the people and as of yesterday it was estimated to last until next week,” said Ms Makhurane.
She said toiletries have also been provided.
Ms Makhurane said the deportees are under the Ministry of Health and Child Care surveillance.
She said visits by Ministers Ndlovu and Mavima will see deportees also receiving clothing that will allow an individual to have four sets of clothes.
Responding to questions from journalists during a press briefing at Ekusileni Hospital on Saturday night after visiting the isolation centre in Plumtree, Minister Ndlovu said the issue of shortage of beds, mattresses, blankets and water had been rectified.
“We visited Plumtree today (Saturday) with Professor Paul Mavima who actually is in charge of people who are coming in the country and indeed we got the report that there were some concerns in terms of water accessibility.
“The deportees are staying at Plumtree High School which has dormitories that have two floors. The [water] pressure could not reach the upper floor. When we got there, blankets had already been procured from Plumtree Hospital with some coming from the Ministry of Public Service,” said Minister Ndlovu.
“There were a lot of issues that needed urgent attention. These people were deported after the lockdown and it is necessary that we observe them for fourteen days so that they are safe to go to the communities as during this lockdown period we are ensuring that communities are safe.”
Minister Mavima said the District Development Fund (DDF) has been tasked to provide a pressure pump.
“Specifically, at the school, the major problem was that there was now congestion and the issue of water. The town council intervened and made sure that water was being pumped into the hostels and they were even using hosepipes.
“We have now said DDF should go in and provide a pressure pump for the local (school) boreholes and the procurement should be done as soon as possible,” said Minister Mavima.
“We have sent a bus to go to Beitbridge to our facility which receives some of the impounded goods so as to address the blankets issue fully. We are satisfied that food is available and new residents have testified to that fact that the food issue has been sorted,” he said.
Minister Mavima said during their visit they engaged the deportees and explained to them the importance of being isolated for the health of their families and themselves.
He said medical authorities on the ground have been instructed to conduct regular screening so that if any Covid-19 case develops, it can be quickly addressed.
“We have talked to them about why we are holding them, that it is because of prioritising their health and that of their families and they appreciate it. Upon consistent monitoring and screening we may sooner rather than later release some of them as a lot of them were not from a holding camp in Botswana but were travelling and could not beat the lockdown period,” said Minister Mavima.