By Mashudu Netsianda
The generality of people operating at Bulawayo’s Renkini Bus Terminus seem to be ignorant of the need to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic as evidenced by their casual approach in terms of embracing key elements of combating its spread.
Personal hygiene and social distancing are key in combating the spread of the deadly global pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 19 600 people with more than 436 000 people infected globally.
The World Health Organisation has asked people around the world to wash their hands regularly, practise personal hygiene, avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth as well as avoid crowds. So far one person has succumbed to the pandemic in Zimbabwe.
A Chronicle news yesterday visited the bustling bus terminus, which was teeming with vendors, public transport operators and the commuting public.
From separate interviews with members of the general public, it was clear that there is a serious lack of understanding of how Covid-19 is spread from one person to another.
Mr Godwin Kashangura, an airtime vendor said: “It is clear that most of people operating at Renkini are taking coronavirus lightly as you can see from the way they conduct their businesses. They are so relaxed such that if you talk to them about the need to prevent coronavirus, they will simply tell you that is a foreign disease with blacks being immune to it.”
He added: “They don’t care when it comes to issues to do with personal hygiene, social distancing and everyone here is only worried about making money and nothing else.”
Chronicle news crew also caught up with Mr Charles Mguni, a conductor for a kombi which plies the Bulawayo-Nkayi route, who showed ignorance and lack of care in terms of fighting the spread of coronavirus.
“What is coronavirus? It is nothing to me and therefore I don’t care even if I get infected. To us here, what matters is money and nothing else and this issue of avoiding physical contact through social distancing doesn’t work here,” he said.
Mr Mguni, who seemed to be struggling in terms of maintaining personal hygiene, continued: “Even if you bring masks and sanitisers no one will bother to use them because of the nature of business here.”
Mr Norman Mlilo of Nketa suburb who was waiting for his wife from Nkayi claimed social distancing is a “unAfrican.”
“It is difficult for some to embrace these foreign cultures. As Africans, we greet each other through handshakes and therefore it is difficult for us to start adopting foreign things such as social distancing. During beer-drinks we love sharing the same mug, which is our traditional way of life and you can’t take that away from us,” he said.
The Chronicle news crew also spoke to Ms Rutendo Moyo who had just alighted from a Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) bus plying the Bulawayo-Gokwe route.
She commended Zupco for practising social distancing in their buses, which are no longer allowed to carry more than 100 passengers seated and more than 16 standing to prevent infection in the face of the Covid-19 threat.
Chronicle, however, observed that upon disembarking from the bus, Ms Moyo together with other passengers, indiscriminately mingled with the crowd in clear defiance of the principle of social distancing.
The news crew also observed some people feasting on a water melon without washing their hands.
Vendors are operating in jam-packed space where there is a lot of overcrowding such that people are susceptible to contracting coronavirus among other airborne diseases.
Mr Darling Ncube, a bus driver, said although it is important to control the spread of Covid-19, the conditions under which people at Renkini Bus Terminus operate make it impossible to avoid physical contact.
“We brush shoulders and we also exchange money daily making it virtually impossible to effectively fight the spread of coronavirus. The other thing is that the generality of people doing business here are mostly those who are self-employed and they rely on their vending businesses to eke out a living such that you can’t keep them off the bus terminus,” he said.
“There is a lot of human contact raising fears of the spread of Covid-19 in the event one of the vendors contract the virus.”
Mr Ncube appealed to the Government to supply free hand sanitisers, masks and other protective clothing to the public, saying it will help fight the spread of the pandemic.
Mr Khulekani Khumalo, a fruit vendor, has no idea of what measures to take to fight the spread of Covid-19.
“I have heard people talking about coronavirus but I was not aware it can be spread through physical contact. What you are telling me is news and from now onwards I will stop shaking hands,” he said.
Last week the Parliamentary portfolio committee on health chairperson, Dr Ruth Labode, said Government must find a way to ensure that there is enough social distancing in Zupco buses among other places to curb a possible threat of people infecting each other in the often-overloaded buses. The Chronicle