Civic society groups have called on government to cancel public consultations for the divisive constitutional amendment bill number 2 in light of the global pandemic coronavirus (COVID19).
The calls come in the wake of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s declaration of corona as a national disaster with government postponing the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair and the independence celebrations until the threat of coronavirus recedes.
In his State of the Nation Address at State House yesterday, Mnangagwa said all activities will resume once Government is satisfied that the country is no longer at risk but resisted calls for travel restrictions from high-risk countries.
“Government has decided to postpone, curtail or cancel public events, gatherings and activities.
“While all our major entry ports into the country will remain operational, screening, testing and other WHO recommended measures will be enforced vigorously,” he said.
Conspicuously, government made no announcements concerning Constitutional Amendment Bill gazetted in December 2019, which proposed 27 amendments to the Constitution adopted in 2013 after a referendum.
According to a circular released by the clerk of parliament, the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs chaired by ZANU PF legislator Dudzai Mataranyika, will hold public hearings on the Constitution Amendment Bill from the 29th of March to the 04th of April 2020.
Centre for Natural Resources Governance director Farai Maguwu said government has exposed its insincerity over the welfare its citizens by failing to take drastic measures in response to the pandemic, including suspending school activities.
He said while regional and global governments have taken drastic steps to ensure a coordinated response, Zimbabwe’s response is akin to its weak response during other health or drought related disasters.
“All governments that care about their citizens have called off public gathering, even some organizations have asked workers to work from home.
“Zimbabwe is a special case in the world, imagine the President declared Coronavirus a National Disaster but went on to say schools shall remain open and didn’t issue a travel ban on people coming from affected countries such as China and Europe.
“Thus, Zimbabwe is not serious about fighting the pandemic which many believe is already taking lives in our country whilst government remains in denial, as it always does in cases of health and drought related disasters,” said Maguwu.
Others took to micro blogging site Twitter to question the wisdom of keeping schools open with only two weeks remaining before holidays.
Officially Zimbabwe has not yet recorded confirmed cases of COVID-19 and so far, all suspected cases have been negative, however concerns have been raised over the country’s porous borders.
There are mounting fears that inadequate screening creates avenues for the virus to penetrate into the country with a health system reliant on donor funding compromised, medicine and equipment shortages that has seen doctors and nurses taking regular industrial action.