By Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa
1.0 UPDATE ON ZIMBABWE’S RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Cabinet considered an update on the response to the COVID-19 Outbreak, which was presented by the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development on behalf of the Chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on the COVID-19 Outbreak Honourable O.C.Z.Muchinguri-Kashiri.
Cabinet advises that, as at 3 May, 2021, Zimbabwe’s cumulative COVID-19 cases stood at 38 293, with 35 647 recoveries and 1 578 deaths. The recovery rate stands at 93%, with 36 533 of cases being attributable to local transmission. There are 1 073 active cases.
Cabinet notes with concern the upsurge in the use of unauthorized passenger-carrying vehicles that are not affiliated to ZUPCO on the roads. Social distancing and other COVID-19 measures are hardly being observed by passengers in these vehicles. In order to curb this development, the Vehicle Inspectorate Department (VID), the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Traffic Safety Council (ZTSC) are enhancing surveillance and enforcement. The nation is reminded that all beer halls, bars, pubs and nightclubs remain closed. Bottle stores should strictly open for takeaways, as required by the law. Restaurants are expected to continue to be open for 50% sit-in capacity, takeaways and deliveries. Cabinet approved that the operating times for the restaurants be extended to 2100 hours.
In light of the general lack of compliance to COVID-19 regulations by citizens, the Law and Order Sub-Committee will step up surveillance and enforcements, including community engagement on the risks associated with such complacency.
Meanwhile, the nation is being advised that the Provincial Education and Health focal teams have been successfully trained for the COVID-19 response in schools. Each province has now developed a plan for implementation of enhanced Infection Prevention and Control, Surveillance, Risk Communication and Community Engagement. It is envisaged that compliance with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will be enhanced and buttressed by the standardized approach to the management of outbreaks in schools.
Furthermore, Cabinet approved a request made by the Insurance and Pensions Commission (IPEC) for the Organization of Eastern and Southern Africa Insurers (OESI) to host a meeting of Insurance regulators. The approval was made on the following conditions:-
1. that they choose a large venue in Victoria Falls;
2. that they use a combination of face-to-face and online modes of discussion; and
3. that they strictly adhere to COVID-19 regulations.
2.0 PROGRESS REPORT ON THE PROCUREMENT AND ROLL-OUT OF COVID-19 VACCINES
Cabinet received an update report on the procurement and roll out of COVID-19 Vaccines, which was presented by the Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Honourable C.G.D.N. Chiwenga.
As of 3 May 2021, a total of 437 751 people had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 99 765 their second dose across the country. On confirmed COVID-19 cases in schools, Cabinet advises that 126 new infections were detected through the school’s surveillance system during the week under review. Among these were 77 additional cases at Sacred Heart Primary School, Matabeleland South, 46 at George Silundika High School in Matabeleland North and 3 at Thornhill High School, Midlands. Cabinet wishes to restate that any boarding school learners who test positive for COVID-19 should be isolated at their respective schools and should not be taken home. Cabinet reiterates the position that there should be strict adherence to COVID-19 guidelines by all institutions of learning and those found flouting these will be disciplined accordingly.
In order to improve capacity of the health service delivery in Zimbabwe, Cabinet advises that the Ministry of Health and Child Care intends to open up the Open-Heart-Surgeries and Radiotherapy services. This would be enhanced through partnerships with the private sector and local financing organizations. It is envisaged that the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) would enable the expansion of access to higher quality health care in services by leveraging on the capital, infrastructure, equipment and expertise from both the private sector and the public sector.
In a development to address the power challenges experienced by health facilities, Cabinet adopted a proposal for the installation of solar back-up energy kits at six hundred and forty (640) health facilities.
3.0 IMPLEMENTATION OF THE EAZIFLUSH SANITATION TECHNOLOGY FOR WASTE MANAGEMENT IN URBAN AND RURAL COMMUNITIES
Cabinet considered and approved the implementation of Eaziflush Sanitation Technology for Waste Management in Peri-urban and Rural Communities, which was presented by the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, as the Acting Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Social Services and Poverty Eradication.
Government wishes to get rid of open pit latrines, implement alternative innovations suitable for transforming rural communities with respect to the provision of clean water and improved sanitation. Government is taking a deliberate position to provide modern, sustainable, and affordable infrastructure in both urban and rural communities. It is highlighted that Vision 2030 speaks to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Number 6 which seeks to “Ensure availability and Sustainability of the Management of Water and Sanitation for all”.
Cabinet is pleased to inform the nation that some innovation has been developed. The programme may be funded through the Schools Development Associations, the Constituency Development Fund, Devolution Funds or donor participation. The nation is advised that the Eaziflush Sanitation Technology is an innovation that seeks to ameliorate the challenges occasioned by the need to improve hygiene practices on open defecation in these peri-urban and rural communities. The technology which uses two (2) litres of water per flush, compared to the seven (7) to nine (9) litres used by the conventional system, will convert the existing pit latrine infrastructure. This will reduce construction costs for new ablution facilities by up to eighty (80) percent.
Cabinet acknowledges that the adoption and implementation of the Eaziflush Sanitation Technology will go a long way in reducing the transmission of water-borne diseases such as typhoid, diarrhoea, dysentery, and cholera, which result from lack of adequate sanitation facilities. The project will be implemented in phases beginning with rural schools and clinics. It will then be cascaded to homesteads once the concept has been demonstrated and popularized. Presently, the technology is already installed and being piloted at Glenwood Primary School in Epworth and has proved to be effective, functional and user-friendly in terms of applicability and cost.
4.0 UPDATE ON THE IDENTIFICATION AND QUANTIFICATION OF ALL IRREGULAR AND DYSFUNCTIONAL SETTLEMENTS, NATIONAL WETLANDS MASTERPLAN, STREAMLINING THE OPERATIONS OF HOUSING CO-OPERATIVES, AND THE EMERGENCY ROAD REHABILITATION PROGRAMME 2
The Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Honourable C.G.D.N. Chiwenga, briefed Cabinet on the ongoing programme to address the untenable situation brought about by the emergence of irregular and dysfunctional settlements, including in wetlands and flood-prone areas. The programme also covers the production of the National Wetlands Masterplan, streamlining the operations of housing cooperatives and the rehabilitation of damaged roads.
Cabinet advises that the number of families residing in wetlands or in dysfunctional and irregular settlements which are in need of alternative accommodation stands at 31 257. Verification of affected households is ongoing. In the meantime, the provision of relief to distressed households in areas prone to flooding is underway, while the identification of safe places in all Provinces is being carried out.
It will be recalled that the settlement project includes the development of blocks of flats by Government to house huge numbers of relocated households at Dzivarasekwa, and at Highfield (Harare) and Senga (Gweru) Messengers’ Camps. Cabinet is happy to report that ground-clearance of the construction area for the building of four blocks at Dzivarasekwa has been done and procurement of construction materials is underway, with actual construction set to commence in mid-May 2021. The additional forty blocks approved by Cabinet for construction at Dzivararsekwa will be completed this year.
Concerning the Messengers’ Camps projects, Government plans to construct 15 blocks of flats with 240 housing units on the available open spaces at the Highfield Messengers’ Camp. The first phase entails construction of two blocks of flats with 32 housing units to accommodate the first group of households residing in existing units. The second phase will entail the construction of a further two blocks. On the other hand, the redevelopment of Senga Messengers’ Camp will create 13 blocks of four-storey flats with a total of 208 household units. The additional funds required to ensure that the Dzivarasekwa, Highfield and Senga Messengers’ Camps projects are completed this year will be provided by Treasury. On a related matter, Cabinet wishes to inform the public that the regularisation of Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle Settlements through provision of on-site and off-site infrastructure by Government is a top priority under the programme, since they constitute a significant portion of the category of settlements with approved plans.
Regarding private sector participation in the settlements construction projects, the following sites have been identified for piloting of the public private-sector partnership: Gimboki South (Mutare); Cowdray Park (Bulawayo); Hatcliffe North (Harare); Southlea Park (Harare South); and Caledonia (Goromonzi). Bids for expressions of interest for the regularisation and sanitisation of dysfunctional settlements were invited from the private sector and adjudication of submitted bids was completed on 30 April, 2021. Materials and labour are now being mobilised and construction is expected to start in earnest around mid-May 2021.
In terms of progress made to date, the nation is advised that the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme 2 is gathering significant pace. Highlights include the construction of the Karanda Bridge (Mashonaland Central) which was launched by His Excellency the President in April 2021; construction of the Monte Casino Bridge (Mashonaland East); surfacing of 5 kilometers along the Chivi-Mhandamabwe-Tugwi Road (Masvingo) and 10 km stretch from Chivakanenyama to Zvipani along the Karoi-Binga Road (Mashonaland West). In Harare, the rehabilitation of Boshoff Drive and Chikurubi Prison Access was completed, while a cumulative 35 km of the Kwekwe-Mvuma Road (Midlands) have been re-gravelled and 15 km graded. In Bulawayo, a stretch of Fife Street in the Central Business District (CBD) was resealed and project scoping for the rehabilitation of Masiyapambili Road is underway.
On streamlining the operations of Housing Cooperatives, it is advised that any settlements established by these entities which are irregular and dysfunctional will be removed or regularized in terms of the set criteria under the relevant statutes, with those eligible for relocation receiving the necessary support. Profiling of the cooperatives should bring out the land barons and other illegal cooperatives which should be deregistered, while viable cooperatives will be strengthened and supported.
Government takes this opportunity to advise the nation that Teams led by Ministers will soon embark on assessment visits of settlement and road rehabilitation projects to verify their status in all provinces in order to ensure timely delivery.
5.0 WAY FORWARD ON THE THREAT POSED BY THE ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES OF ARTISANAL MINERS ACROSS THE ECONOMIC SECTORS
Government expresses grave concern at the threat of destruction of the country’s critical communications infrastructure and economic activities posed by the illegal and indiscriminate mining activities of illegal artisanal miners across all sectors of the economy. This follows presentation of a report on the matter by the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, which was adopted by Cabinet.
In the area operated by the Bulawayo-Beitbridge Railway (Pvt) Ltd, artisanal miners had dug pits within the three metre radius of the railway line. This has the potential of weakening the railway infrastructure, leading to potential derailment and damage to the track. Cabinet approved the deployment of special security operations to deter artisanal mining activities along the Beitbridge-Bulawayo Railway line.
Cabinet further directed that law enforcement be intensified in all areas and further security enhancement measures instituted to ensure that no further costly damage of strategic communications infrastructure and derailment of economic activity caused by illegal artisanal mining activity persists. Stiffer penalties will also be metted out on artisanal miners who engage in destructive illegal activities.
6.0 HAILSTORM DISASTER IN THE MUTASA AND CHIPINGE
Cabinet was briefed on the hailstorm disaster that occurred in the Mutasa and Chipinge districts of the Manicaland Province by the Minister of Local Government and Public Works. The disaster which occurred on Friday 30th April 2021 resulted in extensive damage to infrastructure and houses, leaving a number of households homeless and without food. One person was seriously injured. Cabinet would like to assure the citizens that the necessary assistance will be rendered to all the affected families.
Meanwhile, the ZW$40 million disbursed by Treasury into the National Civil Protection Fund has been utilized to provide immediate relief in the form of tents, blankets and food items. The Department of Civil Protection is currently carrying out further assessments of the situation in cooperation with partners at the sub-national level in order to alleviate the suffering of our citizens.
I Thank You.