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Government Must Bail Out Families and Small Businesses Hard Hit By COVID-19

Amid growing poverty and illiteracy, for the San COVID-19 is a huge blow. Image supplied by Davy Ndlovu

BULAWAYO, The Citizen Bulletin, Aug. 28, 2020 (EDITORIAL) — Our government has the sole responsibility of taking care of its citizens, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this editorial, we make a case for the San, a constituency of indigenous peoples who have suffered marginalization for several decades. 

Dear  Readers,

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. As such, we must all stay vigilant until this crisis recedes. Our distressed local healthcare system is now even worse than before and many people, especially those suffering from chronic illnesses are failing to get access to healthcare. As we report elsewhere, some of the elderly patients have now resorted to home care where they do not have medical supplies they need to treat their illnesses.

The state has the obligation to ensure that every citizen has access to information they need to fight the raging pandemic but as we report in our lead story, the San, the country's earliest indigenous community, has limited access to COVID-19 information to make informed decisions about precautions they should take to protect themselves from the virus. To compound matters, this community also lacks access to basic amenities such as running water. Most low-income communities across the country use water and soap to sanitize their hands to kill the coronavirus — supplies which the San don’t have. We urge government authorities, particularly those from our region to speedily engage their counterparts in central government to address the plight of the San community which continues to suffer marginalization.  
For the majority of Matabeleland citizens who rely on cross border trading and diaspora remittances, COVID-19 has brought untold suffering. Most small businesses in the region that order goods from South Africa and Botswana are on the verge of collapse while families that rely on diaspora remittances are already struggling to deal with poverty. Since March when COVID-19 first broke out in Zimbabwe, border closures are making it difficult for businesses to restock and for locals working in neighboring South Africa and Botswana to send groceries back home. Our government has the responsibility of providing financial relief in the form of small grants to businesses and individuals hard hit by COVID-19. In one of our stories, Industry minister, Mangaliso Ndlovu, a legislator from our region, confirmed the central government was in the process of disbursing financial packages to distressed businesses — and we urge authorities to keep their promises. Most importantly, we advise them to ensure that state resources are equitably distributed, including to our region often battered by deliberate marginalization by the central government.
As the pandemic rages on, we pledge to continue serving you with hard-hitting news and information to help you take precautions to fight COVID-19 and to give you the ammunition you need to become agents of good governance, holding public officials accountable for the delivery of public services and goods. In addition to our newsletter, we also distribute our stories through our social media pages — Facebook and Twitter — which we believe reaches a reasonable number of audiences in and around Matabeleland. Going forward, we plan to produce an engaging WhatsApp podcast summing up stories in our bi-weekly newsletter.

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As always, enjoy our bi-weekly news round up on our COVID-19 tab.

The Editorial Team