Zimbabwe is now under lock-down starting from today. Most businesses which the government has deemed not essential will be closed. Among the few businesses that will be operating are market stalls including Mbare Musika Farmers market which will still be open to farmers. It has to be applauded that the government is cognisant of the fact that Zimbabwe is an agricultural economy and agricultural produce does not stop growing and maturing because of there is a lockdown. Closing agricultural stalls would have a devastating effect on the activities small farmers who rely on these for their livelihood.
It is also important to note that this measure does not just apply to Mbare. Farmers will generally be allowed to access their usual markets provided that they adhere to COVID-19 stipulations. This includes them wearing face-masks, using hand-sanitisers, observing social distancing and closing their stalls by 15:00 just like all other businesses.
It’s not yet clear how everything will work however. Who is going to write a letter for these farmers? The Ministry of Industry and Commerce? Do they need a letter in the first place or will the security personnel manning checkpoints just take a peek at their cargo and wave them through? What about when they are coming back from selling their produce and have nothing to show? These are the many pain points that remain and no doubt after much confusion and chaos we will get a better picture of how it works.
The filthy Mbare stereo-type
Mbare has been the victim of stereotypes often perpetrated by those who have never ventured further than the flats. Often pictures circulate on social media showing gargabe and crowds are used by some to show that Mbare is where coronavirus spreads. The truth is more nuanced than this. Mbare Musika is home to several markets and a national bus station. During lock-downs these are not operational for the most part.
In fact, the place has an empty feel during most lock-downs especially the vegetable market which is very spacious. Only the flats area is crowded and most customers have no need to visit it. The crowding in these areas is a matter of daily live as the residents live in cramped quarters anyway. Social distancing is impossible even if people stay indoors.
Again buying fresh produce should not be risky at all due to the fact that few people frequent market. Especially during lockdown periods when inter-suburb travel is restricted.