Ever since the pandemic came onto the scene, Zimbabwe has been watching what has been happening in other nations. This is probably one of the reasons why the majority of people have been somewhat trivialising the pandemic. Even when news of suspected cases emerged, people still and have largely been complacent about taking it seriously. The other challenge has been the propagation of fake news because it has somehow primed most people to rubbish news even when they are factual. The death of Zororo Makamba from the virus has served as a rude awakening and now people are increasingly becoming more alert and vigilant. Even the government that has not been proactive is now putting in stringent measures in response to the pandemic.

Local Measures Now Taking Effect

As at 23 March, the government resolved to close off the borders. The borders are still open for essential traffic though non-essential travel has been banned. As for cargo, it is still allowed to move across the borders. Returning local residents will still be allowed to pass through but they will be subject to rigorous screening procedures. It will be mandatory for them to be in quarantine for 3 weeks – this must be adhered to without fail. The head of state has also given a directive that bars should be closed. This also includes night clubs, beer halls, sporting facilities and pools amongst others.

The closure of open markets is still pending whilst the government is evaluating the possibility. In the meantime, health personnel has been sent out to enforce strict hygiene at such open markets. Other things that have been discouraged are unnecessary social visits. The initial limit of a gathering of not more than 100 people has been reduced to 50. There have also been assertions that non-essential personnel must work remotely so as to reduce physical human interactions.

Implications For Small Businesses

The closing of the borders will no doubt negatively affect local small businesses. Most informal traders get their goods or wares from neighbouring South Africa, for instance. This is something they normally do on a weekly basis and as such any disruption in that normal cycle will be a huge blow to their businesses. Even when looking at local measures being put in place, small businesses will definitely be affected. Consider places like open markets, bars, night clubs and the like. These are hubs of informal trading so if people are banned from being in such places business activity plummets.

The Sad State Of Being Reactionary Rather Than Proactive

One of the most disheartening things about the passing on Zororo Makamba and even all suspected cases is carelessness on the part of the authorities. All local suspected cases have been people who came from other countries – high-risk countries actually (just like the Makamba case). One wonders what really was so difficult in issuing measures to screen or even bar people coming from high-risk areas. Now that someone has died we are seeing the very same measures that should have been in place from the onset.

All the countries that were affected should have been case studies for us to draw lessons. I have been thinking all this while why even a partial lockdown has not been enacted just until we are certain things are in control. As it stands at the moment the country does not have enough empirical information or data to inform us of how serious or not the spread of the pandemic is locally. All this is crucially important especially considering that due to the prevailing economic turmoil Zimbabwe is not financially capacitated to be reactionary.

The likes of Italy and China are well-oiled countries but they have had to come to their knees by being overwhelmed by the pandemic. What more our nation which is going through lots of economic instability. It is always important to be proactive than to be reactionary. There is a saying I love which says, “Principles are set before a crisis”. The moment you now scurry to set principles when a crisis is already in session you have missed it already – you could have done better. Let this be a learning curve even for our personal lives or businesses.

Your Standpoint As A Business

A lockdown could be looming and it is imperative that as a business you should brace yourself. Ask yourself how you will keep your business afloat in the event that a lockdown comes into effect. I cannot help but think about how I have always emphasised the importance of running your business online. If you run your business online it will be easy to endure disruptions like lockdowns. A lockdown also brings out how having a service-based business is usually the best. Goods-based business can be tricky because restricted movements can be hard to circumvent. This time moving forward might be an interesting learning curve especially for small businesses.

Just another point to highlight that I found interesting. Many people have been citing that it seems as if the Zimbabwean government has been copying how South Africa is approaching this pandemic. That could be true or maybe not, I do not wish to delve into that. However, I feel it is important as a nation to take initiative when it comes to matters affecting us rather than waiting on others. Even as a business, take initiative – if you feel you must do a lockdown do not be held back by looking at others. Evaluate your own context and do what is best and applicable to you.