At the time of writing Zimbabwe is under a nationwide lockdown of indefinite length, which is supposedly subject to review every two weeks or so. Ever since the original lockdown regulations, which were put in place in late March (2020), started getting eased to allow some commercial activity to resume, confusion has developed as many (mostly self-employed) members of the public are no longer sure exactly what is allowed and what is not. Due to this lack of information, many are slowly trying to get back to their usual routines. Where they do not get any resistance they assume that they are not doing anything wrong. In other instances admonishing baton sticks to assure them of the exact opposite.
Unfortunately such kind of experimentation with law enforcement can end up being very inconvenient, especially if you cross paths with overzealous officers. That is why all Zimbabweans must improve their knowledge of these rules. What follows is a breakdown of a few of these which I feel most people would find useful.
Yes, we are very much still under lockdown
Ever since the aforementioned easing of the original lockdown rules I have seen a growing number of people who seem to believe that the current restrictions now only affect groups and activities who were explicitly named e.g. private kombis and churches. The truth is quite the opposite: unless your activities are part of those which have been specifically exempted, you are supposed to continue observing the lockdown rules. This means that you should have a good (and acceptable) reason for leaving your home every time you do so, mask or not. Lucky for you, an exercise in public spaces is allowed (more on this later).
Most formal businesses exempted
Most formal businesses have been allowed to resume operations and their employees are allowed to travel to and from work. Those still prohibited from opening their doors to the public include restaurants, tourist facilities, lodges, recreational facilities, bars, theatres and cinemas. Businesses which are resuming operations must test and screen employees for COVID-19 within 14 days of their reopening. Proof and documentation of these tests must also be kept. In addition to wearing masks while on the job, the hands of the employees must also be sanitised and their body temperatures checked upon entry.
Businesses must also prove that they are formal through one or more of the following:
- The holding of a shop or other licence from a local authority enabling it to operate the business in question from the specified premises.
- Being the lessee of premises governed by the Commercial Premises (Lease Control) Act [Chapter 14:04].
- Being a registered operator for the Value Added Tax Act.
- Being registered as an employer to pay employees’ tax under the Income Tax Act, or otherwise, make a regular return of income for that Act.
- Being a party to a collective bargaining agreement negotiated through an Employment Council governing the business in question;
Informal manufacturers exempted
Manufacturers were some of the first businesses to be exempted from the lockdown and the industry’s informal sector was fortunate enough to also be included. Informal manufacturers are still obligated to prove to any enforcement official that they are indeed what they claim to be upon demand. From where I stand this gives the latter ample latitude to dismiss the claims of the former or worse (the pandemic is yet to kill old fashioned greed and corruption). This means that while informal manufacturers are technically allowed to operate, they may still get a lot more grief from these officials than their formalized counterparts.
Only ZUPCO and company vehicles allowed to carry passengers
To make it easier to enforce compliance with social distancing and fumigation rules (and perhaps for other more nefarious reasons), ZUPCO is the only transport company allowed to ferry passengers. Company vehicles and chartered (by a company allowed to operate) ones can also carry passengers as long as they also follow the regulations: fumigation, social distancing and the wearing of masks within the vehicle.
Outdoor exercise allowed
Here outdoor exercises such as walking, jogging and cycling are allowed in open public spaces such as parks and recreational and sporting facilities. What is more, if you own any you are allowed to take one or more of your dogs with you. You can also bring a friend (note the use of singular) and both of you must wear masks and practice social distancing.
Intercity travel still mostly prohibited
Travelling between cities is supposedly still reserved for essential service workers. However since formal companies have been allowed to resume operations, this means work-related travel (for formal businesses) should also be allowed.
“Nonessential” gatherings still prohibited
Of late people have been resuming public gatherings exceeding 50 people but these are still pretty much illegal—worshipping included. Exceptions include bus stops, funerals, vehicles, supermarkets, hospitals and pharmacists. Strangely enough for the first two, people are still not allowed to number more than 50. In all the other places where gatherings are permitted people are expected to observe social distancing and wear masks.
…and there’s still a lot more
The rules listed above are far from being exhaustive or detailed but they should be enough to clear up some confusion and uncertainty surrounding the lockdown. You can download Statutory Instrument 99 by clicking here.