Stephen Mpofu, Perspective
A RECENT sudden surge in Covid-19 infections in our country could be a herald of the second wave of covid-19 now rampaging through Europe and other Western countries and leaving in its wake thousands of graves and countless other victims of the virus while also destroying economic and social life supports in its wake.
In the circumstances, our Government might wish to reconsider a delay in re-opening most border entry points into the country after prolonged closures in a bid to curb the spread of the killer virus.
It is common knowledge that during past festive seasons, Zimbabweans working or living in South Africa, which boasts a concentration of foreigners courtesy of that country’s more advanced developed status this side of the continent, have flocked back home for re-unions with families and friends in celebrating Christmas.
Not only that. Thousands of foreigners holed up in South Africa have used Zimbabwe as a transit zone on their way back to their native countries namely Zambia and Malawi. Malawians in particular, went down South through this country, following in the footsteps of their former president Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda who as an ordinary man from Nyasaland seeking his fortunes like his fellow natives travelled through Southern Rhodesia, jumped the Limpopo River border, south of Beitbridge, into South Africa where he briefly worked before finding his way to the United States of America, advanced his education there, before proceeding to England and then on to West Africa before returning home to lead his country into independence in the early 60’s.
During festive seasons industries temporarily shut down in Zimbabwe, South Africa and other countries so that should Zimbabwe go ahead with plans to re-open the border entry points on December 1, the country might in the process open floodgates of people infected with the coronavirus, what with South Africa being the country with the worst infections in Africa at the moment.
What is more, delays in the onset of rains, so that the Limpopo River remains unflooded, may persuade many Zimbabweans and other foreigners working in South Africa and in other Sadc countries and not willing to pass through Beitbridge and be vetted for corona infections, to jump the Zimbabwe South Africa border across the Limpopo to find their way here with foreigners infected with the virus spreading it as they continue on the journey to their native countries.
The laxity in wearing face masks and in social distancing demonstrated by many people in Bulawayo, and with some of them filled with a fatalistic belief that covid-19 only infects white people, could in fact serve as a fillip for covid-19’s second wave through the country.
But who knows for sure that reports regarding the sudden daily increases in coronavirus infections, which authorities describe as local transmissions, are not in fact, infections imported by Zimbabwean relatives resident in South Africa?
In fact, authorities monitoring the coronavirus situation might wish to go the extra mile to try and discover if the infections are not passed on by Zimbabweans visiting relatives back home from neighbouring countries, in which case people in rural areas, where surveillance might not be as strict as the case in urban areas, may be feeling the brunt of the covid-19 infections.
This pen therefore believes that as more Zimbabweans live in rural areas than those in urban centres, greater attention should be directed towards safeguarding lives out there by setting up quarantine and health centres there; otherwise devolution in which rural populations are supposed to play a greater developmental role may end up in ruin.
A Zimbabwean working in South Africa said during a recent visit to Bulawayo that border jumpers were cutting holes in the fence along the border with South Africa to steal into this country and back with traders bribing officials guarding the border on both the South African and Zimbabwean sides, his report validating what this newspaper has recently published.
The upshot of this discourse is an appeal to our Government authorities to seriously consider the pros and cons of re-opening the country’s borders to all forms of traffic without adequate facilities to ensure that carriers of the virus do not just walk into the country carrying their deadly cargo.
This is so that should the worst come to the worst, the powers that be will not find themselves in an invidious situation and saying in their regret: “oh, how we wish that knowledge to prevent the spread of this killer virus had preceded our failures.”