In our fourth post in the series of the impact of COVID-19 on researchers, Chiedza Angela Hari, an environmental management researcher from Zimbabwe, shares the positives and negatives of the current situation for her work and for the wider situation in her country.
Greetings! I wear many hats, one of which is being a researcher with a keen interest in environmental management issues. I appreciate these 21 days of lockdown as I now have, for the first time, ample time to focus on my research without compromising family time. On the downside, my data collection process for a research paper I am currently working on is now on hold. I know I am not the only one affected, hence I suggest that, instead of locking our minds down, we can explore various online avenues that sharpen our research skills.
In the meantime, I intend to jog my critical analysis skills around this COVID-19 monster in relation to what is happening in Zimbabwe. As the country is on lock down in a bid to contain COVID-19, most Zimbabweans who survive on informal jobs are panicking as to how they will survive. While a few formally employed are going on 21 days off work, the general unemployed populace is on 21 days of financial lockdown with absolutely no source of income for self-sustenance, no adequate food nor any money for rentals. Most people, especially vendors survive on ‘hand to mouth’, meaning they have no work no food on the table, not to mention the losses incurred as their perishable wares went to waste. I fear that this could, at some point, leave vendors with no choice but to return to the streets for their daily hustling for survival.
Recently, the government promulgated Statutory Instrument 77 of 2020 that has a jail term of up to 12 months for people who defy the order of anti-gathering of people more than 50. Stiff though the penalty may be, the feasibility of adherence is questionable because people still must queue for basic commodities such as mealie meal and public transport where the crowd, by far, exceeds 50. This shows the dilemma and double impact this virus has on the disadvantaged. To aggravate the situation, the closure of borders has negatively affected business; the formal and informal sectors largely source their products from the international community, with the informal at the sinking end. In as much as social distancing is noble in fighting the spread of COVID-19, people’s livelihoods are under threat, not only in Zimbabwe but also across all other developing countries faced with the same predicament.
From another angle, this pandemic has proven that the health sector is one of the most important drivers of economic growth hence the need to invest more and have proper health infrastructure. I am more concerned about the aftermath of this pandemic. Should the world brace itself for yet another ‘Great Depression’ following the crushing of economies that is likely to happen if this pandemic is to continue? Divine intervention is all we need at this point as science, riches or intellectual strength, alone, have proven useless in putting an end to this virus.