South Africa’s 21-day lockdown starts today as the neighbouring country battles to contain the Covid-19 pandemic which has infected more than 500 people. President Cyril Ramaphosa said during the lockdown most businesses will be closed except retail outlets, service stations, essential banking services and telecommunications. 

The SA lockdown will have a direct impact on Zimbabwe given that between 2 and 3 million Zimbabweans are in South Africa and most retailers get their stocks from the neighbouring country. A number of Zimbabwean families are sustained by relatives working in South Africa. 

Mr Ramaphosa said given the rate at which the coronavirus is spreading in SA, the lockdown had become necessary and called on citizens to co-operate with authorities. The SA government has come up with a number of measures to mitigate the effects of the lockdown which include assisting affected companies financially. 

We have already alluded to the fact that this lockdown will directly affect Zimbabwe and there is therefore a need for Zimbabwe to take measures to mitigate the impact. Zimbabwean manufacturing companies should rise to the occasion and ensure they produce enough basic commodities to meet demand. 

The retailers who used to rely on imports should be able to switch to local producers for their stocks hence the need for local manufacturers to increase production. There is need to urgently increase production of basic commodities such as mealie- meal to avoid the long queues at retail outlets that are putting people at risk as they cannot maintain social distancing.

The situation is likely to get worse as a result of the SA lockdown as some of the mealie- meal sold in both retail outlets and in the informal sector is imported from SA. The millers, we want to believe, have put in place measures to ensure the SA mealie-meal import gap is covered. 

It is our hope that Zimbabwe which has already started implementing a raft of measures to minimise exposure to the pandemic, will not be forced to escalate its measures to a lockdown. 

We therefore want to urge citizens to abide by the new regulations announced by Government aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 which has since claimed one person in Zimbabwe. 

The country has so far recorded three confirmed cases of Covid-19. What is encouraging is that most bars have since closed after Government announced a ban on gatherings at such recreational facilities. It is us as citizens who can minimise the risk of exposure to Covid-19 by abiding by the regulations.