There seems to be a disconnect in Zimbabwe when it comes to lockdowns. A few days ago the president announced that musicians were now allowed to perform. Then the following day his vice president came out and banned all gatherings except funerals. That had the effect of reversing the president’s order. Yesterday the Ministry of Sport announced that as part of compliance to the new lockdown there would be no PSL football matches, gyms would be closed and in fact all sporting activities were banned. Now that just seems overzealous.

Overzealous and broad

While the first measures announced by the Vice President are quite reasonable for example vigilance in wearing masks, sanitising hands and social distancing the other measures seem needlessly broad. I am also shocked that the Sports and Recreational Commission is simply rubber-stamping these measures without standing up for its stakeholders. This is Zimbabwe though, these commissions are usually stuffed with government loyalists who simply kow tow to authorities.

Lockdowns have detrimental effects on the income of people in affected sectors. The government has proved that it is unwilling to provide financial aid to ailing sectors. Mthuli Ncube, probably the worst finance minister we have had, keeps boasting about surpluses he has made as if that’s the point of his job. Complete shutdown of these affected sectors should therefore be a last resort.

The government should calibrate the way it responds to spikes in cases to include intermediary measures that do not include shutting down businesses completely depriving people of income they need. Sporting events could have continued without fans for example. Players would get tested before events to ensure they are negative. Stopping all sports is just lazy and brutal.

In fact, the same applies to a lot of these measures. What evidence is there that if a business closes at six PM instead of 8 PM there will be a reduction in cases? The government has testing data that shows the hotspots, we must ascertain the reason why cases are rising and institute refined measures that address these spikes instead of just shutting down businesses. This is unsustainable, is this how the government is going to be responding always?

The trouble with broad measures like these is that they are not sustainable. Already the informal sector doesn’t pay attention anymore when it comes to shutdowns. They have realised that shutdowns cost them their livelihood without really any gains. Are banana vendors really to blame for a spike in cases? Why are we seeing a spike in cases? Focus on that and have precise solutions instead of blanket bans.